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The Christmas Bird Count

December 1, 2023

Do you love birds? We know, many of you have pretty full calendars at this time of year. However, bird lovers may want to make a note of another upcoming annual event: the Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count, which takes place December 14 to January 5. This tradition may be new to some of you, but it’s been going on for over 100 years! A Middletown, DE vet offers some insight about this event below.


The Christmas Bird Count was started way back in 1900. It was originally a new twist on an older tradition: that of the Christmas bird hunt. In the old days, many hunters would set out on holiday bird-hunting competitions, with whoever took the most birds winning a prize. Things changed around the dawn of the 20th century, as the concept of conservation was first taking root. Enter ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early Audubon official. He convinced other bird lovers to switch their agendas to counting birds, rather than hunting them. 27 people took part in that first bird count. The event took place in several different locations, or circles, as the birders call them. That initial census counted roughly 90 species of our feathered friends.

The Official Bird Count

Counting birds is a great way to enjoy a peaceful hike on a quiet December morning. However, there’s a bigger purpose behind the event. Those annual counts are very helpful to conservationists, researchers, and wildlife agencies. The data helps them track changes in bird populations, and assess how changes in bird habitats are affecting those populations. If you love birds and want to help them, this is an easy way to lend our feathered buddies a hand.

How It Works

The Christmas Bird Count is actually quite simple. Locations to be scouted are called circles. Each circle has a 15-mile diameter. Organizers plan out specific routes for birders to take during their counts, which will all take place on one specific day. Some people can even do their counts from home! Participation is free, though you would need to provide your own transport and any materials you would need, such as apps, books, or binoculars. You can learn more about the tradition here.

Holidays With Polly

We can’t really talk about birds and holidays without mentioning seasonal hazards.  Many of those holiday plants, foods, and decorations are unsafe for our winged pals! Ask your vet for specific advice. 

Happy Holidays from Galena Animal Medical Clinic, your Middletown, DE pet hospital!

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