Each year that goes by we seem to experience more change in all areas of life and the birding world is no different.  With some of my recent speaking engagements I refer to it as the runway effect; where everything runs along fairly consistently, gaining momentum, then all of a sudden, lift off and we notice large amounts of change.

Birds are staying over winter that normally don’t, were finding others in non historical areas and so on. Climate change, severe weather around the world like we had this fall are adding fuel to the fire of change that’s for sure.

Recently I was researching some information and I decided to look in some of my older field guides from the 1970’s, comparing that information to newer editions I wasn’t surprised to find vast amounts of differences in the data and historical bird ranges.

So, where and how is that data collected, obviously many dedicated professionals are collecting information on a regular basis, however, there is nothing more important for data than the annual Christmas bird counts that take place locally, a large number of dedicated volunteers have been collecting, reporting and documenting for many years.  If you are looking for a fun and exciting way to get outside and take part in birding studies over the holiday season, Christmas Bird Counts are a great way to discover some of your favorite birds.


Dating back to 1900, this 117 year tradition is now conducted in over 2000 locations across North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. With help from thousands of birders, these observations have been added to an international database illustrating the distribution and numbers of winter birds from year to year.

This observational activity began around the turn of the 20th century as conservation was in its infancy as more and more bird enthusiasts and scientists began to be concerned about declining numbers of bird populations in their areas. An early officer in the Audubon Society, Frank Chapman, then proposed a new holiday tradition in which groups of participants (27 members at the time) began a “Christmas Bird Census” and has now blossomed into the annual Christmas Bird Counts.

Today the Christmas Bird Counts take place exclusively between December 14th and January 5th of each year, where many families have adopted this annual activity as a family tradition now being passed down through generations.

Whether participants partake in the count for the entire period or only a day or two, each member contributes heavily to the conservation of our feathered friends. The Audubon Society , bird studies Canada and a number of other organizations use the data collected to aid them in assessing the strength of certain species as well as furthering the ongoing importance of conservation and habitat creation.

If you, your family or friends are interested in taking part in a local bird count we have several that are steeped in history to become involved in, here are some dates.

1,  McNamara Field naturalist Club, Pakenham/Arnprior Dec 26/2017

2, Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist Club , Carleton Place, Dec 27/2017, Lanark Dec 30/2017

3, Rideau Ferry Christmas Bird Count,  contact Rosemary Anderson 613-700-9233Dec 16/2017

The Christmas Bird Counts were formerly funded by member fees, but now operate strictly on donations. If you would like to donate and be an integral part of bird studies, research and conservation you can do so via the Audubon website’s donation page or through Bird Studies Canada’s donation page. If you’re looking for more information or have any question feel free to connect us, we’re happy to help.


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