For the past 120 years, teams of enthusiastic birders have joined together every December across North America to participate in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Coordinated here in the U.S. by National Audubon Society, the CBC is the nation’s longest-running bird-related community science project. This early-winter bird census spans three weeks, from December 14 to January 5, but area counts of the number of individual birds of each species present within each 15-mile diameter CBC circle are tallied over 24 hours on just one of those calendar dates. Data collected from thousands of CBC circles provides an annual snapshot of the status of wintering bird populations throughout the country. (A map of CBC locations, including those in South Florida, can be accessed at http://ow.ly/kCf430rojaa).
Due to the global pandemic, however, this season’s CBC circles will be run a little differently. To comply with group activity restrictions in local parks and green spaces, most areas within designated CBC circles will likely be surveyed by individual birders, rather than the usual teams. CBC coordinators, also called compilers, will therefore be unable to accommodate requests by the public to accompany CBC teams.
If you live within a CBC circle, however, you may still be able to submit bird count data from your backyard or neighborhood. Open the aforementioned CBC location map and zoom in to see if your home is located within a CBC circle. If yes, click on the bird symbol in the center of that circle to see the count date, as well as the count compiler’s name and email address. Contact the compiler prior to the day of the count to volunteer to count birds in your yard or neighborhood. The compiler will explain how your count data should be submitted. They may provide you with a reporting form for this purpose. On the reporting form, you’ll list the number of individuals of each bird species you saw or heard on count day and were able to identify. You’ll also be asked to provide the amount of time you spent counting birds, as well as your name, address and contact info.
For CBCs located in urban areas, collecting backyard data from throughout the count circle will provide a much more accurate census for many species that are often found in backyards. These birds include Ruby-throated (and sometimes Rufous) Hummingbird, Eastern Screech-Owl and Painted Bunting, as well as introduced species like Red-whiskered Bulbul, Spot-breasted Oriole, Scaly-breasted Munia and several parrot species. For those of you who live within a CBC circle, we’re counting on you to count your backyard and neighborhood birds this CBC season, and look forward to hearing from you!
Click on the link for a list of Florida CBCs, with dates and compiler contact info.