Bird-watching enthusiasts across the nation will be keeping their eyes to the skies from Dec. 14-Jan. 5, those are the dates for the 121st annual Christmas Bird Count conducted by the National Audubon Society. 

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running wildlife survey in the world and one of the oldest examples of “citizen science” making a difference in conservation. During this four-week stretch, tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers gather data on the number and type of bird species found during the peak of migration.

Each individual count takes place in a 15-mile-wide circle and is led by a compiler responsible for organizing volunteers and submitting observations to Audubon. Within each circle, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day - not just the species but total numbers to provide a clear idea of the health of that particular population.

Some counts may take on a different look this year because of COVID-19 concerns and social distancing protocols. Each count organizer in Arkansas is responsible for laying out the parameters of the count, and will make the call on how many participants may participate per location.

Data from Christmas Bird Counts have been used in more than 200 peer-reviewed, scientific articles, including Audubon’s landmark, “Birds and Climate Change Report,” in which it was noted that 314 of the 588 North American bird species will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080 at the current rate of temperature change being recorded.

There is no fee to participate and the quarterly report, “American Birds,” is available online. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s recently redesigned “Arkansas Backyard Birds Guide” also is an excellent resource to find some of the most common birds found in the state.

“First-time participants may also find a new passion in birdwatching, and I’d encourage them to check out the recently redesigned Wings Over Arkansas program at the AGFC,” Kirsten Bartlow, AGFC Watchable Wildlife program coordinator, said. “It offers rewards for attaining certain numbers of species on a birder’s ‘life list’ and is another great free resource to help people enjoy the outdoors.”

Information about Wings Over Arkansas and the Arkansas Backyard Bird Guide can be found at www.agfc.com/wingsoverar. 

Visit www.christmasbirdcount.org for more information and to find a count near you.

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