Christmas Bird Count is scientific, family-oriented act of community service

Families looking for ways to give back to their communities during the holiday season have lots of opportunities for community service, including the “Christmas Bird Count.”


Families looking for a different community service to do together this holiday season should considering participating in the annual “Christmas Bird Count.” The 119th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society, will take place Dec. 14, 2018, through Jan. 5, 2019. The Christmas Bird Count provides critical data on population trends and is the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world.

According to the National Audubon Society, prior to the 1900s people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas ‘Side Hunt.’ They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won. Frank Chapman, an ornithologist involved in the newly forming Audubon Society, proposed a Christmas Bird Census in response to this tradition and the increasing awareness that bird populations were in decline.

The data collected through the Christmas Bird Count has helped scientists, conservationists and policy makers to understand changes in bird populations across North America and to lead efforts to protect birds and their habitats.

Those interested in participating in the Christmas Bird Count can use the Audubon website to find a local bird count taking place in their area. The website lists 119 different counts taking place in Michigan between Dec. 15 and Jan. 5. By participating in a local Christmas Bird Count, observers are participating in a community service effort on a global scale. During the 118th Christmas Bird Count, observations from 76,987 participants in 2,585 different locations were reported to the National Audubon Society.

Those hoping to catch a glimpse of a rare or endangered species of bird during their participation in the Christmas Bird Count may want to take a look at the Michigan Natural Feature Inventory. Maintained by Michigan State University Extension, the inventory includes information and pictures of Michigan birds, as well as other animals, that are endangered, threatened, probably extirpated and of special concern. The inventory can help families prepare to be on the lookout for these special Michigan birds.

Children and youth who participate in community service activities develop skills and knowledge that can lead to a lifelong commitment to service to others. Michigan 4-H provides resources and ideas for youth and families to plan and participate in community service activities. One idea is to make simple birdfeeders using pine cones, peanut butter and bird seeds, and then donating them to nursing homes, hospitals or to neighbors who aren’t able to leave their homes.

If you get swept up in the holiday rush of activities and miss out on all the fun during this year’s Christmas Bird Count, mark your calendar for Feb. 15 to 18, 2019, and participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, a joint project of the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. During the 2018 Great Backyard Bird Count, over 190,000 people around the world identified over 6,000 species of birds!

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