112th Annual Christmas Bird Count Starts This Week

 A citizen science project more than a century old will continue later this week- the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

Keith Russell, Science and Outreach Coordinator for Audubon Pennsylvania, says birds are a great indicator of environmental health. He adds the bird count can even highlight some of the impacts of climate change and it helps identify bird species most in need of conservation action.    It also helps spot trends in loss of bird habitat.

Russell says birds do respond to changes in temperature and other environmental changes.  He says as climate change has progressed, they’ve seen some shifts in the distribution of a number of species of birds.  He says some species are wintering farther north than they used to winter.

Russell says the count also gives them a number of data points to use to get a bead on how abundant a particular species is, and where they’re occurring.  He says this allows them to  adopt good management strategies to help a particular bird species.

Bird counts are conducted by established circles and many do require preregistration. You contact your local Audubon chapter, or you can learn more at birdsource.org.  The Christmas Bird Count runs from December 14th through January 5th. Many circles in Pennsylvania have counts scheduled this weekend.

The Audubon Society is also using social media.  You can follow them on Twitter at Audubon Society, #xmasbirdcount.

**Photo by Judy Howle, courtesy National Audubon Society