For the 123rd year, the National Audubon Society is organizing the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Between December 14 and January 5, tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers will participate in counts across the Western Hemisphere. The 12 decades’ worth of data collected by participants contribute to one of only two large existing pools of information notifying ornithologists and conservation biologists of what conservation action is required to protect birds and the places they need. Find your local count here.
The Audubon CBC is one of the longest-running wildlife censuses in the world. Each individual count takes place in a 15-mile-wide circle and is led by a compiler responsible for safely organizing volunteers and submitting observations directly to Audubon. Within each circle, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day — not just the species but total numbers to provide a clear idea of the health of that particular population. Abiding by state and local COVID-19 guidelines is mandatory.
“The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a great tradition and opportunity for everyone to be a part of more than 12 decades of ongoing community science,” said Geoff LeBaron, Audubon CBC director, who first started leading the community science effort in 1987. “Adding your observations helps scientists and conservationists discover trends that make our work more impactful. Participating in the Audubon CBC is a fun and meaningful way to spend a winter for anyone and everyone.”
When combined with other surveys like the Breeding Bird Survey, the Audubon CBC provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years. The long-term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. For example, in 2019, Science published a study using decades of Audubon CBC data and other datasets to describe a grim picture: a steady loss of nearly three billion North American birds since 1970. Over the years, Audubon CBC data have been used in more than 300 peer-reviewed articles.
Audubon CBC data are also used to measure how birds are already responding to climate change. A 2022 Audubon study used 90 years of Christmas Bird Count data to show how birds have shifted amid a century of major environmental changes. By tracking how bird ranges have moved over time, conservation efforts can be prioritized in areas that are important for birds today and in a climate-altered future. With two-thirds of North American bird species at increasing risk of extinction by the end of this century, Audubon CBC data is more important than ever for effective conservation.
Last year, the 122nd Audubon CBC included 2,621 count circles worldwide. In total, 76,880 observers out in the field and watching feeders tallied up more than 42 million birds representing about 2,500 different species. To observe the trends of any particular species over the last twelve decades, please take a look at the CBC Trends Viewer.
The Audubon CBC is a community science project organized by the National Audubon Society in partnership with Birds Canada. There is no fee to participate. The Audubon CBC is open to birders of all skill levels, and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to learn more. To view Audubon CBC-branded apparel, accessories, and other items for purchase, please visit the Audubon Store.
To sign up for an Audubon CBC and ensure your bird count data make it into the official Audubon database, please find the circle nearest you and register with your local Audubon CBC compiler using this map. All Audubon CBC data must be submitted through the official compiler to be added to the long-running census. For more information and to find a count near you, visit www.christmasbirdcount.org.
Thanks to the National Audubon Society for providing this news.