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How to Join the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count

Eighteen? I think?
Photo: Shutterstock

Do you love birds? Do you also not hate being outside in the cold? There’s an annual census of birds that occurs each year around this time, and in many locations there’s still time to sign up to help.

It’s the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, and despite the name it may occur in your location anytime between December 14 and January 5. The results tell us how many birds are out there, where they are, and what’s changing over time. For example, this trend viewer based on CBC data shows where bird populations have increased and decreased over the years.

There’s more to it than just counting birds, although you are of course welcome to count and appreciate the birds you see any day of the year. For this particular project, you need to choose a circle to join. There are circles all over the US, Mexico, and much of Canada, plus a few other places.

These circles are 15 miles wide, and you can view them on a map here. Green and yellow circles are still accepting volunteers; red ones are closed. Each circle has a person called a compiler who will coordinate how and when the birds are counted. Contact your local compiler if you’re interested. You can join more than one circle if you like.

From there, you just follow instructions. Volunteers will go out and count birds—not just how many different species they see, but literally all the birds. If you’re a beginner, you can participate so long as you’re in a group with more experienced birders. And if you can’t join one of the outings, you can stay home and count birds at a feeder. Either way, contact your local compiler to learn how you can help.

If you can’t participate or if you’d like a smaller project for your first foray into citizen bird-science, sit tight for Audubon’s other popular bird counting project, the Great Backyard Bird Count in February.

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