Christmas Bird Count

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is an annual count of late-December birdlife, taken between December 14 and January 5. The tradition began in 1900 in the United States when ornithologist Frank Chapman organized 27 friends in 25 locations (including Toronto) on Christmas Day. Instead of shooting birds in the annual holiday event called the "side hunt", they counted them.  Today over 60,000 people participate at over 2,000 locations across Canada, the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and it is the largest and longest-running wildlife survey ever undertaken.  The data are gathered by the National Audubon Society and used to approximate the densities of wintering bird populations and keep track of cyclical movements of birds and their extent. A typical example is the southward movement (irruption) of some northern owls and finches during certain winters.

 During Christmas Bird Counts, volunteers count all wild birds they see or hear in a single day within a predetermined area 15 miles (24 km) in diameter.  The count covers every type of bird habitat and the birders travel by whatever means are necessary to cover their count circle. Each census is carried out under specific guidelines. Numbers of individual birds of all species encountered are recorded and the habitats, weather, number of counters, and miles travelled (normally by car and by foot) are noted. Bird feeders within the circle are also censused.  The count day typically ends with a gathering of the participants, during which an official tally is compiled, the day’s events are recounted and food and refreshments are consumed.  Additional species observed during count week are added to the species total.  In Canada alone, almost 12,000 people participated in 382 counts in 2009, with approximately 3.2 million birds of 379 species tallied.  

Christmas Counts Locally

The Thunder Bay Christmas Bird Count has been held every year since 1939 except 1944. In Thunder Bay, the count is held every December 26, with a wrap-up pot luck dinner held that night.  Count date for other communities in the northwest varies somewhat depending on the year and participant availability. 

Christmas Bird Counts are also held in other parts of the District of Thunder Bay and provide a regional picture of winter bird activity.  These counts have included: Atikokan, Dryden, Ear Falls, Fort Frances, Gameland, Grand Marais, Ignace, Kenora, Manitouwadge, Marathon, Morson, Nipigon, Pickle Lake, Red Lake, Rainy River and Vermilion Bay-Eagle River.

The Thunder Bay count circle is centered close to the junction of the Harbour and the Thunder Bay Expressways (map).  The circle is divided into 14 units and field teams go into each unit.  There are also feeder watchers who participate from the comfort of their homes. About 30 observers take part annually.  All birds are counted that day, plus count week bird species for three days before and after count day. 

The Thunder Bay record is 53 species and 16,668 individual birds counted in 1994.

Why not join us on our Christmas Bird Count?

Even if you are an inexperienced birder we would welcome your participation. It’s a great way to learn more about our winter bird populations in a friendly atmosphere.

To sign up and get more information contact Bill Greaves, CBC coordinator, email wfgreaves(at)gmail(dot)com or phone 807-766-8231. He will assign you to a leader of one of the survey areas. The leaders of each group will usually determine the start and end times for their count, however, you can expect to be out for most of the day. Please dress according to the weather and bring along a lunch. Starting at 6 pm there is a pot luck supper hosted by Sue and Mike Bryan in their home at 143 Summit Ave. Please bring along something to share.

After 30 years as the TBFN Christmas Bird Count Coordinator Nick Escott has handed the reigns for the 2016 count to Bill Greaves. Thank you, Nick for your years of dedication and hard work!