San-Cap Audubon will conduct its annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) Dec. 17. The results of the local count will be forwarded to the National Audubon Society for inclusion in the 112th National Christmas Bird Count.
More than 50,000 observers participate each year in this census of early-winter bird populations. The results of their efforts are compiled into the longest running database in ornithology, representing over a century of unbroken data on trends of early-winter bird populations across the Americas. Simply put, the CBC is citizen science in action.
Prior to the turn of the 20th Century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas "Side Hunt". They would choose sides and go into the field with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won. Conservation was in its infancy around the turn of the century, and many observers and scientist were becoming concerned about declining bird populations.
Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition, a "Christmas Bird census" that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them. So began the Christmas Bird Count.
Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of 27 dedicated birders, 25 Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. The locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario, to Pacific Grove, Calif. with most counts in or near the populations centers in northeastern North America. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied a total of 90 species on all the counts combined.
Volunteers are needed for this year's CBC. Birding skills are desirable but not necessary. If you would like to participate in this year's Sanibel-Captiva CBC, you may obtain addition information by calling 239-395-3804.