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Audubon’s 118th Christmas Bird Count Comes to the Mountains

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Audubon North Carolina invites birdwatchers to participate in the longest-running community science survey in the world, Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

Between December 14 and January 5, hundreds of bird-loving volunteers will take part in counts across North Carolina.

Each individual count takes place in a 15-mile-wide circle and is led by a compiler responsible for organizing volunteers and submitting observations to Audubon. In the 56 circles in North Carolina, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day, giving scientists a clear picture of the health of local populations.

During the 2016 North Carolina CBC, volunteers across the state counted 872,508 individual birds of 228 species.

“It’s never been easier or more important to be a citizen scientist,” said Curtis Smalling, director of conservation with Audubon North Carolina. “Birds and the people who watch them are noticing changes. Using the annual data gathered by the Christmas Bird Count, Audubon North Carolina will be better able to protect our birds and the places they need.”

Christmas Bird Count data have been used in more than 200 peer-reviewed articles, including Audubon’s landmark Birds and Climate Change Report, which found that more than half of the bird species in North America are threatened by a changing climate.

When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed over the past 118 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.

“The Christmas Bird Count helps us understand how North Carolina’s bird populations have changed over the past 118 years. This long-term perspective is vital for our conservation work,” said Audubon North Carolina Executive Director Heather Hahn. “It’s also an incredible experience for our participating members, as we utilize their data to help our birds when and where they need us the most.”

Last year, the 117th Christmas Bird Count included a record-setting 2,536 count circles, with 1,933 counts in the United States, 447 in Canada and 156 in Latin America, the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Pacific Islands. In total, 73,153 observers out in the field tallied up 56,139,812 birds representing 2,636 different species.

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(Photo: Red-winged Blackbird by Will Stuart.)