Christmas Bird Count 2009-10

2009 December 12
by David J. Ringer

Christmas Bird Count

VICKSBURG, MISS. — The 110th Christmas Bird Count is almost upon us! I can’t wait. This will be my 10th CBC season, and it’s always a highlight of the birding year, a delicious concoction of tradition, novelty, community, discovery — and of course the birds and the food!

2009-10 Dates

The count period runs December 14 (this Monday!) through January 5. Each count is held on one day within the period. To find the date of a count near you, try Audubon’s Find a Circle tool, or check with your local birding organization or a local birding email list or forum.


Each count is conducted within a circle 15 miles in diameter. Hundreds of circles dot the western hemisphere. Audubon’s Find a Circle tool can help you locate a count near you — whether you’re in Alaska, California, Texas, Quebec, Chihuaua, or Brazil. And of course, local birding organizations and websites usually provide information about nearby counts.


Here’s a map of CBC circles:

Christmas Bird Count circles
© Audubon

Maps of individual CBC circles are generally available from local count organizers (compilers).


The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 — during the early years of the modern conservation movement — and has continued uninterrupted to this day. Frank Chapman conceived the count as an alternative to Christmas “side hunts,” competitions in which participants tried to slaughter as many birds and mammals as they could. This disgusting practice was already on its way out by the turn of the last century (e.g., a 1904 Field and Stream editorial opined: “The whole principle is wrong. It means organized slaughter, killing for the lust of killing, and without the genuine flavor of sport attached.”), but the tradition that grew up in its place has become the largest wildlife census in the world and perhaps the best known.

Tom Bain of the GeoEcology blog posted an excellent overview of the CBC’s origin, including quotations from Chapman’s original 1900 proposal: “A Christmas Bird-Census” and “that ornithological millennium.”

The CBC and Birds

Millions and millions of records, gathered over the years during the Christmas Bird Count, provide valuable insights into birds’ population trends. This data has informed major reports like the U.S. Department of the Interior’s The State of the Birds.

Audubon explains how the Christmas Bird Count helps birds.

The CBC, You, and Me

I’m planning to do three CBCs this year — or four if I can swing it. My first will be the Vicksburg, Miss., count Dec. 19.

Also, this is my first CBC as a member of the Audubon team, and I’ve been asked to appear on Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Creature Comforts radio program next Thursday to discuss winter birds and Christmas Bird Counts. Even if you live outside MPB coverage area, you can listen online next Thursday (Dec. 17) live at 9:00 a.m. CST and again at 9:00 p.m. CST: MPB Online.

How about you? Where are you counting this year? What do you hope find? What is your best/worst Christmas Bird Count memory? What bird species do you associate most strongly with the CBC?

Birders on a CBC

Related posts:

  1. Christmas Bird Count: Counting in a haunted land
  2. Cajun country Christmas Bird Count highlights in pictures
  3. Merry Christmas!
  4. Two Roseate Spoonbills on Vicksburg CBC!
  5. No robin roost in Taney County
3 Responses
  1. Baggins permalink
    December 13, 2009

    Cool- I just subscribed to the Creature Comforts podcast, so I’ll be sure to catch it.

    • David J. Ringer permalink*
      December 13, 2009

      Nice, thanks. :) Any CBCs going on near you? I bet they get some neat stuff up there.

      • Baggins permalink
        December 16, 2009

        Looking at the link you gave, it looks like there’s one in my town. It’s not very well publicized, though- I had to hear about it from a guy in Mississippi. :)

        In general, this is a good area for birding. There are lots of nature trails nearby. Some of them skirt fields, plunge through woods, wind along salt marshes and then open up onto the sea- all on the same trail. I haven’t tried traversing any of them during the winter though, so I don’t know how bad they get.

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