Volunteers wanted for Evanston Christmas Bird Count

Tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission—often before dawn. For over 100 years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the holiday season.

This year’s count marks the 41st year of the Evanston Christmas Bird Count and the 123rd anniversary of the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) held throughout the Americas. The CBC began over a century ago when 27 hunter/conservationists, 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 the “side hunt,” a holiday practice typical of the time period. This “side hunt” was an activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Instead of this hunt, the group, made up mostly of hunters, would put down their firearms for a day and identify, count, and record the birds that they saw. This started the tradition of what now is considered to be the most significant citizen-based conservation effort—and a more than century-old institution.

The data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed over the past hundred years. Growing in popularity since its inception, the count serves as an important scientific function as well. Birds are one of the first groups of animals to be affected by environmental threats like climate change, pollution and habitat destruction. The CBC data provides indispensable information, not only on long-term health of bird populations, but also the status of the environment that birds share with all living things. Over the years, Audubon CBC data have been used in more than 300 peer-reviewed articles. 

     From feeder-watchers and field observers to count compilers and regional editors, everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition, and with the knowledge that their efforts provide valuable data for science and bird conservation.

    During last year’s count, more than 42 million birds were tallied by 76,880 volunteers participating in 2621 different count circles.  This year close to 2,700 individual counts are scheduled to take place throughout the Americas, and beyond, from December 14, 2022 to January 5, 2023.

Bird numbers down for the last 35 years

The number of birds tallied was down again last year, more than 5 million fewer than the year before. The total number of birds recorded on the annual count has been dropping for the last 35 years. With two-thirds of North American bird species at increasing risk of extinction by the end of this century, Audubon CBC data is more important than ever for effective conservation. 

Count event is a 24-hour census

Each count group completes a census of the birds found during one 24-hour period between December 14 and January 5 in a designated circle 15 miles in diameter—about 177 square miles. Participants sit, walk, fly airplanes, boat, cross-country ski, snowmobile, ride horses, and drive all manner of vehicles to tally birds on count day.  Eighteen CBC counts were held in Wyoming last year—Albany County, Bates Hole, Buffalo, Casper, Cheyenne, Cody, Crowheart, Dubois, Evanston WY/UT, Green River, Guernsey-Fort Laramie, Jackson Hole, Kane, Lander, Pinedale, Riverton, Story-Bighorn, and Sundance. One-hundred-sixteen different species were sighted in Wyoming last year. Utah enjoyed 26 counts, with 190 different species documented. A total of 3155 birds, 51 species, were tallied in the Evanston 2020 CBC.

Check out the CBC website:    

Historical count results from 1900 to the present are available through Audubon’s website: www.audubon.org/bird/cbc where this year’s count results will be available in real-time. Explore last year’s tallies, or visit all the counts from the past. See if and how the state of your local birds has changed during the last 25...50...or even 100 years.

Bird numbers down:

Last year’s local Christmas Bird Count was a success.  Twelve field participants and one person attending a bird feeder spent part or all of a cold winter day observing birds.

Together the group logged over 4.5 miles on foot and 288 miles by car, truck, ATV or snowmobile.  A total of 48 species and 3103 birds were counted. 

Reservoirs and ponds within the count circle and much of the Bear River were frozen for the 2021 Evanston CBC, accounting for lower than usual waterfowl numbers. Eurasian-collared dove numbers continue to rise.  The lack of rabbits, rodents and road-killed deer resulted in reduced numbers of raptors, especially golden and bald eagles.

A few American crows continue to spend the winter in the vicinity of Almy and the Evanston city dump, two were sighted on this count.  Magpies, and starlings seemed to be everywhere.  The number of active bird feeders within the count circle is declining.   

Only 92 greater sage grouse were found. The Evanston count holds the all-time tally for greater sage grouse, 698 on the 1985/1986 CBC.  The Evanston CBC 10-year average for sage grouse is 264 per year and many times sage grouse are the most numerous types of bird observed. Unusual species for this 2021’s Evanston count were northern goshawk and sandhill crane.   

The Evanston Christmas Bird Count has been held since 1981 and the 15-mile diameter circle is split down the middle by the WY/UT state line. The event would not be successful without the cooperation of private homeowners and ranchers within the count circle.

Help needed - Evanston count, Saturday, December 17th:

Persons interested in participating in the Evanston count are asked to meet at the Down Home Eatery parking lot, 8 miles north of Evanston on Rt. 89, at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17. Horses, snowmobiles, cross-country skis, and ATVs are welcome. For more information about the count, contact Tim Gorman at 307-679-0656