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Animal Attraction: Citizen scientists prepare for Christmas bird count

Animal Attraction: Citizen scientists prepare for Christmas bird count

Credit: Northern Cardinal - Jerry Acton

by Stacy Fox

khou.com

Posted on December 9, 2009 at 5:52 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 9 at 11:05 AM

The longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, Audubon's annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) will take place between December 14, 2009 and January 5, 2010. From Alaska to Antarctica, tens of thousands of volunteers will add a new layer to over a century of bird population information.

Scientists rely on this remarkable trend data to better understand how birds and their environment are faring, and what needs to be done to protect them. Data from Audubon's signature Citizen Science program are at the heart of numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies. CBC data informed the first U. S State of the Birds Report, issued earlier this year by the Department of the Interior in partnership Audubon and other conservation organizations. CBC analysis also fueled Audubon's February report that revealed the dramatic impact that Climate Change is already having on birds across the continent.

The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when the founder of Bird-Lore (the progenitor of Audubon magazine), Frank Chapman, suggested an alternative to the "side hunt," in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people "hunt" birds only to identify, count, and record them. These Binocular Brigades often brave winter's chill, ice and snow to record changes in resident populations and ranges, before spring migrants return.

"When Frank Chapman started the Christmas Bird Census, it was a visionary act," said Audubon President John Flicker. "No one could have predicted how important the CBC would become as a resource and tool for conservation. It allows birds to send us a wake up call about the importance of addressing the warming of our climate and the loss of vital habitat through action at every level."

CBC data not only helps identify birds in most urgent need of conservation action; it reveals success stories. The Christmas Bird Count helped document the comeback of the previously endangered Bald Eagle and Brown Pelican, and significant increases in waterfowl populations, both the result of conservation efforts.

"Everyone who takes part in the Christmas Birds Count plays a critical role in helping us focus attention and conservation where it is most needed." said Audubon Chief Scientist, Dr. Tom Bancroft, "In addition to Audubon's reports on the impacts of Climate Change on birds and our analysis of Common Birds in Decline, it is the foundation for Audubon's WatchList, which identified species in need of conservation help.

"The Christmas Bird Count is all about the power of Citizen Science" says Geoff LeBaron, Audubon's Christmas Bird Count director. "Our theme is 'I Count' because the work of tens of thousands of volunteers, extending one hundred and ten years, really adds up for the conservation of birds and our environment."

Check this web page in order to apply to participate www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/getinvolved.html

To learn how to identify birds, and become a bird watcher, locate an Audubon Center near you. Meanwhile, here are a few Birding Basics.

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