[audubon-news] 103rd Christmas Bird Count to Begin this Saturday

  • From: "BIANCHI, John" <JBIANCHI@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To:
  • Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2002 11:13:09 -0500

Contact: John Bianchi


Count Organizers Hope to Document the Possible
Impacts of West Nile Virus on Crows, Owls and Raptors

New York, NY December 10, 2002 -Audubon calls upon volunteers to join with
birders across the western hemisphere and participate in what has become
Audubon's winter-time tradition, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), held
this year between December 14, 2002 and January 5, 2003.  In particular, of
special interest to researchers are the birds that may have been most
affected by West Nile Virus: Corvids (Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays),
Owls, and Eagles and other raptors.

"This year, West Nile Virus seems to have had a larger impact on U.S. bird
populations than in years past," said Audubon's Senior Vice President for
Science Frank Gill.  "While we hope use CBC data to learn if there are
regional declines in Crows, Jays, Owls, and raptors it is crucial that
organizers and participants conduct their counts as usual.  That way their
results from this year will be entirely comparable to those of the past
century's seasons.  Our volunteers' efforts are vital if we are to
understand the effects of this deadly bird epidemic."

CBC began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led
by ornithologist Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological
history.  On Christmas Day 1900, the small group of conservationists
initiated an alternative activity to a holiday practice from earlier times.
The 'side hunt,' was an activity in which teams competed to see who could
shoot the most birds and small animals.  With the new tradition, instead of
hunting Chapman proposed to count the birds they saw, thus founding one of
the most significant citizen-based conservation efforts that has now become
a century-old institution.

Apart from its attraction as a social, sporting, and competitive event, CBC
reveals scientific information on the winter distributions of various bird
species.  The CBC is important in monitoring the status of resident and
migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere.

In its 103rd year, CBC is now larger than ever, expanding its geographical
range and accumulating valuable scientific data.  "Backed with over a
century of tradition, the Christmas Bird Count is the longest running
volunteer-based bird census, spanning three human generations," said Geoff
LeBaron, Director of Christmas Bird Count.  "The CBC has evolved into a
powerful and important tool, one probably inconceivable to any of the 27
participants on the first Christmas Bird Count.  Accumulated data from the
CBC become increasingly important by providing the raw material for studies
monitoring the status of early winter bird populations as well as the
overall health of the environment.  With the continually growing value of
the count, its seems likely that today's participants cannot fathom the
value of their efforts in the next century." 

Today, over 55,000 volunteers from all 50 states, every Canadian province,
parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Pacific
islands count and record every individual bird and bird species seen during
one 24-hour calendar day.  Over 1,900 individual count circles will be
covered during a two-and-a-half week official Count period.  Each group has
a designated circle 15 miles in diameter - about 177 square miles - where
they try to census as much ground as possible within a day.

Bird Studies Canada, a leading and respected not-for-profit conservation
organization, continues as the Canadian partner in the CBC.  With Bird
Studies Canada's involvement, another new record high of 1,936 individual
counts made up the Christmas Bird Count last year.  About 52 million
individual birds were counted in the CBC last year.  

Count results from 1900 to the present are available through Audubon's
website <www.audubon.org <http://www.audubon.org>>, and the database
provides a cornerstone for the BirdSource website <www.birdsource.org
<http://www.birdsource.org>> a collaborative project of the National Audubon
Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.  Counts are open to
birders of all skill levels.

The designated CBC compiler for each count will enter their data on-line via
Audubon's website <www.audubon.org> or Bird Studies Canada's homepage
<www.bsc-eoc.org>, where the 102nd Count results will be viewable in near

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat
that supports them.  Our national network of community-based Audubon nature
centers and chapters, environmental education programs, and advocacy on
behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of
people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

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