Every year, volunteers observe and count birds at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto. (Raja Raudsepp/Toronto and Region Conservation)

Pandemic won’t stop the Christmas Bird Count

There may be certain restrictions due to the pandemic, but the Christmas Bird Count will go on as it has done for the last 120 years across North America. The event is called the continent’s longest running citizen science project and it attracts bird watchers of all skill levels. 

Thousands of volunteers in Canada, the U.S. and many other countries in the western hemisphere sign up to go out and count birds in a 24-hour period on one calendar day between December 14 and January 5. 

The evening grosbeak is one of the birds that may be counted in the Canadian province of Ontario. (Bill McDonald/Ontario Nature)

Volunteers follow specific routes

Each count takes place in a predetermined 24-km circle and is organized by a count compiler. Volunteers follow specific routes counting every bird they see or hear all day and post the information using a specific methodology.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the charitable organization, Ontario Nature, is asking participants to wear masks and remain socially distanced from others. They are asked to go with only one survey partner. Some routes may be divided in order to limit the number of volunteers on any given trail. And some individual counts may be cancelled if local health authorities or the non-profit Birds Canada think it cannot be done safely. 

The pileated woodpecker may be easier to spot because volunteers may hear its pecking. (Peter Ferguson/Ontario Nature)

Billion of birds lost

The information collected makes up one of the world’s largest sets of wildlife data used by conservation biologists, according to Ontario Nature.

A 2019 article published in the journal Science suggests that the size of the bird population in North America has decreased by almost three billion birds over the last 50 years. The data collected in bird counts helps conservation efforts and informs policy changes.

A trumpeter swan and ducks can be spotted swimming around at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto. (Noah Cole/Ontario Nature)

Categories: Environment & Animal Life, International
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