Archive for the 'Christmas Bird Count' Category

Circle the Birders and Start Counting

Monday, October 30th, 2017
Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

This is Passport to Texas

The annual Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society, takes place any day between, and including, December 14th and January 5th.

There are over a hundred count circles in Texas, and they have them on different days where people can move around and visit multiple Christmas counts during that Christmas count season.

Nongame ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says many of the 15-mile diameter count circles are decades old.

Teams of birders go in that circle and they repeat that every year. And after decades, you have some really neat data to look at. You can see trends.

Bird count circles for 2017-18. Image from counting circles.

You can see which ducks are maybe on the increase – or on the decline. You can [even] see certain species that we can irruptive species – like red breasted nuthatch and purple finch.

A compiler picks a day for participants to count birds within a specific circle over a 24-hour period.

We use that information to determine where hot spots are for certain species.

It’s easy to get involved. Just go to

Look for a Christmas Bird Count circle near you. And associated with that circle will be the compiler. Contact that person and say, ‘Hey. I’d like to contribute. I’d like to be partnered with a team that maybe has some experts.’ And that to me is the best way to learn birds: go out with experienced people. You will learn so much more than from a book.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Christmas Bird Count: From Killing to Counting

Friday, October 27th, 2017
Christmas Bird Count -- the early years.

Christmas Bird Count — the early years.

This is Passport to Texas

No 19th Century American hunting family’s Christmas was complete without taking to forests and fields to binge kill birds and other woodland creatures, called the Christmas Side Hunt.

You competed against neighbors [to see] who had the biggest pile of birds.

Nongame ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, says no feathered animal was off limits in this competition of carnage.

We’re not talking about things you eat. We’re talking about all birds. Even predators like owls and hawks. Songbirds. Just wasted.

It was the early days of conservation then, and scientists and bird lovers, alike, expressed their concern.

The bird people said: ‘This is not sustainable. Let’s try something different. Let’s get people out with binoculars, and count birds, and maybe compare numbers on a datasheet, instead of piles of dead birds.

Frank Chapman, an early ornithologist and officer of a new organization called the Audubon Society, proposed The Christmas Bird Census for a new century.

So that’s how the Christmas Bird Count came about 118 years ago.

There were 25 Christmas Bird Counts the first year, with 90 species tallied on all counts combined. It continues even now, and we tell you how to get involved next week.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.