Credits: Jeff Tribe/Tillsonburg News/QMI Agency
WINNIPEG -- More than 12,000 volunteers across Canada -- and over 60,000 continent-wide -- will be counting birds from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5.
The Christmas Bird Count, which began in 1900, is a project of the National Audubon Society in the United States and co-ordinated in Canada by Bird Studies Canada.
"This is not just about counting birds," said Dick Cannings, Bird Studies Canada's program co-ordinator.
"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."
It's set to be the largest Christmas Bird Count ever -- with volunteers from all provinces and territories, all 50 of the United States, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies and Pacific Islands, who will count and record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area.
Last year's count shattered records in Canada. A total of 412 counts involving more 12,000 participants tallied 3.9 million birds of 303 species. The count helps identify species at risk and has also uncovered some recovery success stories -- like the comeback of the Bald Eagle and significant increases in waterfowl populations.
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.