A Holiday Tradition: The Christmas Bird Count

Akron-area birder Mike Edgerton holds binoculars to his eyes looking for winter birds.
Akron-area birder Mike Edgerton plans to start his Christmas Bird Count before sunrise. [Mark Urycki / ideastream]
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Once the traditional holidays of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, some Americans look forward to another tradition: the annual Christmas Bird Count.  

Since 1900 birders have picked one day — sometime around Christmas — to survey as many birds as they can find in a 15 mile diameter circle.  

Birder Mike Edgerton, a member of the Greater Akron Audubon Society, says it’s been a valuable form of crowd sourcing.

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration they are using this bird collection data to monitor climate change impacts around the country,” Edgerton said. “And it’s used also by National Audubon just to monitor population expansion, decline, that type of thing. So there’s a lot of useful data there.”

Birder Miuke Edgerton

Birder Mike Edgerton [Mark Urycki / ideastream]

Edgerton’s group members have been making the Christmas Bird Count for 84 years.

“Well I’m starting about 7:00 in the morning. Most people start before daylight because you go out early to see if you can hear owls,” Edgerton said.   

At the end of the day the counts are tabulated and collected nationally to record migration patterns and population changes. Last year the Akron group counted 88 species totaling 216,000 birds.

Audubon circles in Northeast Ohio

Audubon Society bird count circles in NE Ohio [National Audubon Society]

The official Audubon Christmas Bird Count is scheduled from December 14 through January 6. Dates vary by local birding clubs.

The Akron chapter of the Audubon Society will make its count on Sunday, December 16. The Cleveland bird count is December 22, and Lake County and Western Cuyahoga counts will be held December 29.

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