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Audubon's annual Christmas Bird Count begins Tuesday

December 10, 2010 | 12:19 pm

An Anna's hummingbird feeds within the upper reaches of Leo Carrillo State Park north of Malibu.

Birding enthusiasts nationwide are encouraged to participate in the 111th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, believed to be the longest-running wildlife census in the world.

The citizen project, which begins Tuesday and runs through Jan. 5, 2011, helps scientists assess the size of bird populations in local communities.

Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile-diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally -- all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day. If observers live within a CBC circle, they may arrange in advance to count the birds at their feeders and submit those data to their compiler.

Those interested in participating, be it at home or with a field party, need to register in advance. There is a $5 fee per field participant per count. Feeder watchers do not need to pay the fee, and all observers 18 and younger may count for free. Fees go toward funding the program and to help cover costs of generating materials, producing the annual summary and maintaining the CBC website and database.

A few of the frequently asked questions and answers posted on the Audobon website regarding the Christmas Bird Count are after the jump:

Question: How do I find a Christmas Bird Count circle near me?

Answer: Visit the Christmas Bird Count "Get Involved" web page to search for a circle near you. Circles will be listed with upcoming count dates as compilers enter them. Please check back if you do not see a count date listed for your circle of interest.

Q: On the Christmas Bird Count, do I have to join a field party, or can I count the birds at my feeder?

A: As long as you live within a designated CBC circle, you are welcome to count the birds at your feeder. All you’ll need to do is contact your local Compiler in advance of the count day to arrange to participate. Then you may report your results on the Count Day.

Q: Can I just do my own CBC and send you my data?

A: No. Since each CBC is a real census, and since the 15-mile diameter circle contains a lot of area to be covered, single-observer counts (except in unusual circumstances) cannot be allowed. To participate on the CBC you will need to join an existing CBC circle.

As an alternative, you may be interested in getting involved in the Great Backyard Bird Count organized by Audubon with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It takes place President’s Day weekend each February and you can count the birds each day in your backyard/community and then enter the results online.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: An Anna's hummingbird feeds within the upper reaches of Leo Carrillo State Park north of Malibu. Credit: Pete Thomas / Pete Thomas Outdoors