A festive tradition, the Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count


The holiday season is not only a time for festivities and gathering with loved ones, it is also a time to appreciate and protect feathered friends.

This year marks the 124th Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count (CBC) where the public can play a crucial role for avians in the winter.

The Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count is a long-standing tradition bringing together bird enthusiasts of all levels across North America. Instead of a bird species tally, those participating count every bird they see or hear in the entire day.

Locally, on Dec. 31, a Sauvie Island-centered bird count will take place. The local count will include areas along the Oregon side of the Columbia River but also Washington’s Vancouver Lake area, the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and the Lewis River near Woodland and La Center. Those interested in joining the count can email Susan Setterberg at smsetterberg@yahoo.com.

Designated zones for bird counts like the Sauvie Island-centered bird count are 15-mile diameter circles. Volunteers give the scientists an idea of the total number of birds in an area on the day of the count, according to the Audubon Society.

The Christmas Bird Count takes place across North America between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, providing an opportunity to gather valuable data on bird populations during the winter season, according to an article by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The event has been running for over a century, beginning on Christmas day in 1900, making it one of the longest-running citizen science projects in the world.

“The majority of refuges are within a Christmas Bird Count circle, which is wonderful because CBCs are one of the world’s oldest examples of citizen scientists contributing to wildlife conservation,” said Mike Carlo, a visitor services specialist for the National Wildlife Refuge System and avid birder, in the USFWS article.

The data collected over the century has provided valuable insights into the health and well-being of various bird species, according to the article. It has helped identify population declines, shifts in migration patterns and the impact of habitat loss and climate change on bird populations.

“If we had not had a Christmas Bird Count in those early years, we would not have as strong an understanding of long term bird trends. Many of these changes take place gradually,” said Chan Robbins, retired 60 year U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, in the article.

Other local counts include the Dec. 23 Lewis County Christmas Bird Count.

“The count is centered around the Centralia and Chehalis areas and encompasses vast stretches of forest, farmland and urban development areas. Birders of all skill sets are welcome as are those who cannot count for an entire day,” stated Allison Anholt, Lewis County Christmas Bird Count organizer.

To sign up for the event, email allison.anholt@gmail.com.

A Columbia River-centric count between Cowlitz County and Oregon’s Columbia County will take place on Dec. 30. For more information or to sign up, email Becky Kent at beckykt@comcast.net.

For more information and to find the map of Christmas Bird Count locations across North America, visit audubon.org/conservation/join-christmas-bird-count.

People who want to help in a different way are encouraged to upload bird sightings to eBird, which lists 126 birding hotspots in Clark County alone. According to eBird, the top bird site in the area is the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge’s River S Unit, which has a species-to-date total of 241. Other popular locations include Washougal’s Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Vancouver Lake Lowlands. For the complete list of birding hotspots, visit ebird.org/region/US-WA-011/hotspots.