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Help Count Birds for Science during Audubon North Carolina’s Annual Christmas Bird Count

Data Collected Informs Impact of Climate Change on N.C. Birds

Audubon North Carolina invites birdwatchers to participate in the longest-running citizen science survey, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Beginning Monday, December 14, North Carolina’s birders and nature enthusiasts will take part in the 116-year tradition of citizen science, collecting data that will help shape the future of birds and climate science nationwide. Each year, N.C. ranks in the top performing states participating in the global citizen science event. During last year’s CBC, the state’s 51 participating geographic circles collected the most tallies of any state for 15 individual species. Among the most important species recorded in N.C. was the endangered Red Knot. CBC participants recorded 1,600 Red Knots along the coast including more than 1,200 at Ocracoke Island. 

“The enthusiasm and dedication of CBC participants paves the way for Audubon’s groundbreaking research including our understanding of climate change and its effect on NC birds,” said Executive Director Heather Hahn. “As Audubon continues to uncover the effects of climate change in our state, the data collected by these passionate supporters will pave the way for our work with local lawmakers to develop and enact legislation that protects our birds and our communities in the coming years.”

Each year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count mobilizes over 72,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,400 locations across the Western Hemisphere. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count utilizes the power of volunteers to track the health of bird populations at a scale that scientists could never accomplish alone. Data compiled across North Carolina will record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area, contributing to a vast citizen science network that continues a tradition stretching back more than 100 years.  

To date more than 200 peer-reviewed articles have resulted from analysis done with Christmas Bird Count data. Bird-related citizen science efforts are also critical to understanding how birds are responding to a changing climate. This documentation is what enabled Audubon scientists to discover that 314 species of North American birds are threatened by climate change as reported in Audubon’s groundbreaking Birds and Climate Change Study. The tradition of counting birds combined with modern technology and mapping is enabling researchers to make discoveries that were not possible in earlier decades. 

Hahn added, “The CBC is a great example of the power of Audubon’s extended network. Today, participation is more important than ever as we seek to understand the health of our bird populations and find new ways to protect them. We encourage anyone interested in birding or bird conservation to find a nearby count and get involved.” Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun, nationwide citizen science project, which provides ornithologists with a crucial snapshot of our native bird populations during the winter months. Each individual count is performed in a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles. At least ten volunteers, including a compiler to coordinate the process, count in each circle. The volunteers break up into small parties and follow assigned routes, which change little from year to year, counting every bird they see. In most count circles, some people also watch feeders instead of following routes.  To sign up for a count, please click here.  

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore – which evolved into Audubon magazine – suggested an alternative to the holiday “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds. For 116 years now, people have counted birds rather than shooting them.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a citizen science project organized by the National Audubon Society. There is no fee to participate and the quarterly report of results, American Birds, is available online. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to chip in. For more information and to find a count near you visit

About Audubon North Carolina

With a century of conservation history in North Carolina, Audubon strives to conserve and restore the habitats we share with all wildlife, focusing on the needs of birds. Audubon North Carolina achieves its mission through a blend of science-based research and conservation, education and outreach, and advocacy. Audubon North Carolina has offices in Corolla, Boone, Wilmington and Chapel Hill. Learn more at and @audubonnc.

About Audubon

The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at and follow @audubonsociety.


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