Prior to the turn of the 20th century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt.” An appalling and bloody custom, those involved would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered and furred game won.
Conservation was in its infancy at that time and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. So, on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman proposed a new holiday tradition, a “Christmas Bird Census” that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them. Thus, the Christmas Bird Count began.
They’re Counting on You
Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of 27 dedicated birders, 25 Christmas Bird Counts were held that day in 1900. The locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all counts combined.
From mid-December into January, thousands of volunteers across the country take part in this popular citizen-science program. The data collected by observers over the past century allows researchers, conservation biologists and wildlife agencies to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. Organizations use this data to assess the health of bird populations and to help guide conservation action.
The long term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs them on how to best protect birds and their habitat. The information gathered also helps identify environmental issues with suggestions for people as well. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is one of the conservations that participates in this vital tradition so you, too, can be a part of something grand.
Every Birder Counts
Birders interested in participating in the Christmas Bird Count can sign up here or contact Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge at 956.784.7500 for more details, dates and volunteer opportunities. Each year from December 14th through January 5th, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave snow, wind or rain to take part in the effort. Join Santa Ana in being a part of history at the 116th Christmas Bird Count!