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Good Birding: It’s time for the Christmas Bird Count!

In 2021 counts were reported in 2,621 circles with 76,880 participants counting 43 million birds of 2,554 species.
Golden-crowned Kinglet.

The Sunshine Coast Natural History Society will be conducting its 44th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on Saturday, Dec. 17, and the 32nd Pender Harbour count, organized by the Pender Harbour Wildlife Society, is on Wednesday, Dec. 21. Results of the counts will be reported in my next column. 

The first Christmas Bird Count was held in New England on Christmas Day 1900 when ornithologist Frank Chapman organized 25 of his friends to spend a day in the field censusing birds, as an alternative to the prevailing “sidehunt” where shooting parties went forth and shot any living thing, and the team with the most dead bodies at the end of the day was declared the winner. Fortunately, we have moved on from that disastrous ethic and in 2022 the Christmas Bird Count in the U.S. is organized by the Audubon Society and in Canada by Bird Studies Canada. This year will be the 123rd CBC and it is often referred to as the world’s oldest citizen-science project. The long-term database provides a trove of information concerning the populations of mid-winter birds in the New World. 

In 2021 counts were reported in 2,621 circles with 76,880 participants counting 43 million birds of 2,554 species. The highest count in North America was 230 species at Mad Island, Texas, and Mindo-Tandayapa in Ecuador was the overall leader with 369 species.  

Each count takes place on one day during a specified period around Christmas and all are conducted within a circle 15 miles or 24 kms in diameter. The Sunshine Coast circle is centred in Roberts Creek and covers the area from Port Mellon to West Sechelt. Most years the Sunshine Coast count records a species total in the 90s, with a highest ever total of 105 species in 2009.  

Last year the count was 78 species (+ 11 count-week species), the lowest species total in 35 years. Mitigating factors were access problems after the November floods, unco-operative tides, and COVID issues. Pender Harbour generally reports 80-85 species with a high of 87 in 1993. Last year the count was 84 species. It was the first time Pender reported more species than the lower coast.   

In addition to the birds counted on “count-day” we also tally those species recorded during “count-week,” which extends three days before and after the count day. For the Sunshine Coast count this year the period is Dec. 14 to 20, and for Pender Harbour Dec. 18 to 24. If you see any unusual or unidentified birds at your feeder or elsewhere, please contact [email protected] or 885-5539 so that they can potentially be included in the count. Photographs of any unusual species are especially welcome. 

Good Birding.