BIRD STUDIES CANADA INVITES BIRDERS AND NATURE ENTHUSIASTS IN MUSKOKA TO
TAKE PART IN 105th ANNUAL CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT
Birders reveal new bird secrets
Naramata, BC, December 1, 2004. The Muskoka Field Naturalists calls upon volunteers in Muskoka to join with birders across the western hemisphere and participate in North America’s longest-running winter-time tradition, the annual Christmas Bird Count, held on December 19 in Gravenhurst and Bracebridge. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels. This year, nearly 2,000 individual counts are scheduled to take place throughout the Americas from December 14, 2004 to January 5, 2005.
This year we are reminded of how having fun while birding can have important results that affect the conservation of our birds. Through work this year with our partners at the National Audubon Society, Canadian Wildlife Service and the Boreal Species Initiative we have analyzed the information that has been collected by Christmas Bird Count participants over the last few decades. For the first time we have good estimates of population trends for species including Rusty Blackbird (5.2% annual decline, a total decline of 86% over 39 years, a loss of nearly 13 million Rusty Blackbirds since 1965/66), Hermit Thrush (an increase of 2.2% a year), Merlin (annual increase of 3.3%), Northern Shrike (a decline of 1.8% a year), and Harris’s Sparrow (decline of 1.8% a year). These important results will be used to prioritize Canada’s bird conservation activities. The Rusty Blackbird is now being assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and may join other birds on Canada’s Species at Risk list.
The Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history. On Christmas Day 1900, the small group of conservationists posed an alternative to the "side hunt," a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Instead, Chapman proposed to identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the most significant citizen-based conservation effort and a more than century-old institution.
Today, over 55,000 volunteers from every province and territory, all 50 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. During the 104th count, about 63 million birds were counted on a record-high 1,996 individual counts. Each count group completes a census of the birds found on one day between December 14 and January 5 in a designated circle 24 kilometres in diameter—about 458 square kilometres.
Apart from its attraction as a social and competitive event, the Christmas Bird Count reveals valuable scientific data. Now in its 105th year, the Count is larger than ever, expanding its geographical range and accumulating information about the winter distributions of various birds, and it is vital in monitoring the status of resident and migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere. The data, 100% volunteer generated, have become a crucial part of the Canadian and U. S. governments’ natural history monitoring databases. Articles published in the 103rd Christmas Bird Count issue of American Birds helped ornithologists better understand the magnitude of the effects of West Nile virus on regional bird populations. In addition, count results from 1900 to the present are available through Audubon's website: www.audubon.org/bird/cbc.
"Backed with over a century of participation and collected data, the Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running, volunteer-based bird census, spanning three human generations," said Dick Cannings, Canadian count coordinator. "The Christmas Bird Count has evolved into a powerful and important tool, one probably inconceivable to any of the 27 participants on the first Christmas Bird Count. With continually growing environmental pressures, it seems likely that today’s participants cannot possibly fathom the value of their efforts now and in the next century."
Christmas Bird Count compilers enter their count data via Audubon’s website www.audubon.org/bird/cbc or Bird Studies Canada’s homepage www.bsc-eoc.org, where the 105th Count results will be viewable in near real-time. Explore this information for the winter of 2004-2005 or visit a count from the past. See if and how the state of your local birds has changed during the last 25…50…or 100 years.
Bird Studies Canada is recognized nation-wide as a leading and respected, not-for-profit, conservation organization dedicated to the study and understanding of wild birds and their habitats. Each year, more than 20,000 volunteers actively participate in BSC research and education activities.