An American Goldfinch in winter plumage could be one of the birds you count as part of the annual bird counts taking place across the country.

Birding enthusiasts join 113th annual Christmas Bird Count

The Christmas Bird Count is a project of the National Audubon Society in the U.S. and is coordinated in Canada by Bird Studies Canada.

More than 12,000 volunteers across Canada – and over 60,000 continent-wide – will be counting birds from December 14, 2012 to January 5, 2013. Many will rise before dawn and brave winter weather to participate in the world’s longest running wildlife census, begun in 1900.

The Christmas Bird Count is a project of the National Audubon Society in the United States and is coordinated in Canada by Bird Studies Canada. The Count will undergo several significant changes beginning this year as both organizations build on the program’s success to entice birdwatchers to lend their eyes and ears year round. Fees to participate in the count will be dropped to encourage greater participation, and the annual published report, American Birds, will go digital in 2013, saving more trees for the birds.

The 113th CBC is expected to be larger than ever, expanding its geographical coverage and accumulating information about the winter distributions of various birds.

Today, volunteers from every Canadian province and territory, all 50 of the United States, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Pacific Islands, count and record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area.

“This is not just about counting birds,” says Dick Cannings, Bird Studies Canada’s program coordinator. “Data from the Christmas Bird Count are at the heart of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies and inform decisions by wildlife managers across Canada.

Because birds are early indicators of environmental threats to habitats we share, this is a vital survey of North America and, increasingly, the Western Hemisphere.”

Christmas Bird Count data have revealed the dramatic impact climate change is already having on birds, and a disturbing decline in common birds, including the Rusty Blackbird. The many decades of data not only help identify birds in need of conservation action, but also reveal success stories. The Christmas Bird Count helped document the comeback of the Bald Eagle and significant increases in waterfowl populations, both the result of conservation efforts.

Last year’s count shattered records in Canada. A total of 412 counts involving over 12,000 participants tallied 3.9 million birds of 303 species.

The count began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore (which evolved into Audubon magazine) suggested an alternative to the holiday “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most small game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people count birds instead.

Three Christmas Bird Counts will be conducted in the local area. New Denver will conduct theirs on Dec. 27; Fauquier/Burton on Dec. 28; and Nakusp on Dec. 29. For further information on these contact Richard Johnson (New Denver), Ruth Bumpus (Fauquier) or Gary Davidson (Nakusp).