Count Birds, Help Science

Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

This is Passport to Texas

More than a hundred years ago people participated in a time-honored Christmas tradition.

People would go out and do what was called a side hunt, and the winning group would come back with the biggest pile of dead critters.

Most of the critters in those piles were birds. Cliff Shackelford, non-game ornithologist with Parks and Wildlife, says conservationists had a better idea.

Early conservationists thought that we ought to count birds and not try to collect birds.

Today we have the Christmas Bird Count, December 14th through January 5th. Volunteers, armed with a bird list and binoculars, head into the field on a specified day to count birds over a 24-hour period.

What people do is they get into teams, and they have a defined 15 mile radius circle that they’re counting in, and that circle never moves. The hope is that you would count that circle for decades and decades and over time you would see trends.

Everyone turns in their data to a compiler who sorts it out and sends it to researchers; they use it to assess the health of bird populations, and to guide conservation action.

Go to audubon.org for more information and to register.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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

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