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Christmas Bird Count Set For Dec. 14-Jan. 5

Brown Pelicans may be among the birds spotted during the Christmas Bird Count. Photo: Lindsay Addison, Audubon North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL —  Grab your spotting scopes, binoculars and winter coats. Audubon North Carolina needs bird-watchers Dec. 14 to Jan. 5 to join in the 118th annual Christmas Bird Count, a citizen-science project that gives a picture of the continent’s bird population.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count, the longest-running community science survey in the world, is organized by the National Audubon Society. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to become a part of the project.

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, according to the organization. In the 56 circles in North Carolina, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day, giving scientists a clear picture of the health of local populations. There are more than a dozen circles on the coast. There is no fee to participate.

“It’s never been easier or more important to be a citizen scientist,” said Curtis Smalling, director of conservation with Audubon North Carolina, in a statement. “Birds and the people who watch them are noticing changes. Using the annual data gathered by the Christmas Bird Count, Audubon North Carolina will be better able to protect our birds and the places they need.”

More than 200 peer-reviewed articles, including Audubon’s landmark Birds and Climate Change Report, which found that more than half of the bird species in North America are threatened by a changing climate, have used the data, the release stated. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, the Christmas Bird Count provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed over the past 118 years. The long-term perspective informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well.

“The Christmas Bird Count helps us understand how North Carolina’s bird populations have changed over the past 118 years. This long-term perspective is vital for our conservation work,” Audubon North Carolina Executive Director Heather Hahn said in a statement. “It’s also an incredible experience for our participating members, as we utilize their data to help our birds when and where they need us the most.”

During the 2016 North Carolina Christmas Bird Count, volunteers across the state counted 872,508 individual birds of 228 species. Globally, the 117th Christmas Bird Count included a record-setting 2,536 count circles, with 1,933 counts in the United States, 447 in Canada and 156 in Latin America, the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Pacific Islands. In total, 73,153 observers out in the field tallied up 56,139,812 birds representing 2,636 different species.

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.