A popular Christmas Day tradition in the late 1800’s was the competitive “Side Hunt.” The “side” of sport hunters that amassed the largest pile of dead birds at the end of the day won. The conservation movement was young then but early conservationists and scientists were becoming concerned by the decline in bird populations as a result of the lucrative millinery trade and unrestricted hunting.
On Christmas Day, 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an officer in the recently formed Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition: the Christmas Bird Census. The first Christmas Bird Census was conducted by 27 birders at 25 different sites. The birders counted 18,500 individuals from 89 species. Last year’s Christmas Bird Count consisted of 79,425 volunteer birders at 2615 birding circles (sites) who observed 48,678,334 individual birds from 2638 species.
Now in its 120th year, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC), is the longest running citizen-science project in North America. A century of collected data helps researchers assess the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. This data, combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, shows changes in bird populations and provides a perspective for conservationists to use to identify environmental issues and propose strategies to protect birds, their habitat and their role in the larger ecosystem.
The annual CBC runs from December 14th through January 5th. Birders of all levels are welcome and, as novice birders are partnered with experienced birders, the CBC is a good way to develop and improve birding skills. It is not too late to join the 2020 Christmas Bird Count; ten Central Texas groups will conduct their CBC between now and January 5th.
- Balcones Canyonlands NWR (TXBC) | Monday, December 16, 2019
- Westcave Preserve (TXWP) | Tuesday, December 17, 2019
- Love Creek, Bandera County (TXLC) | Wednesday, December 18, 2019
- Kerrville (TXKV) | Saturday, December 28, 2019
- Lost Pines, Bastrop Area (TXLP) | Saturday, December 28, 2019
- Round Rock (New Count) | Saturday, December 28, 2019
- NewBraunfels (TXNB) | Sunday, December 29, 2019
- West Kerr County (TXWK) | Monday, December 30, 2019
- Bastrop-Buescher State Park (TXBB) | Wednesday, January 1, 2020
- Burnet County (TXBN) | Friday, January 3, 2020
A list of CBC’s in other parts of Texas and additional details of individual Central Texas CBCs including contact and registration information may be found here.
VMS Category: FR, Field Research