Community Science

Audubon’s 119th Annual Christmas Bird Count Begins Dec. 14

Thousands of participants will be part of the world’s longest-running wildlife census, which contributes invaluable data to bird population research.

Durham, NC (Dec. 7, 2018) –The National Audubon Society invites birdwatchers to participate in the longest-running community science survey, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, birders and nature enthusiasts across the state will take part in this tradition, many rising before dawn to participate.

“Not only is counting birds for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count fun, it’s also important because the data tell us how our bird populations are doing,” said Curtis Smalling, director of conservation for Audubon North Carolina and a lifelong birder. “Because of the CBC – and other community science programs in other seasons – we know that nearly 180 species of birds in North Carolina face shifting and shrinking habitats due to a warming climate.” 

Last year, highlights included record numbers of Bald Eagles – 410 – and Ospreys – 61, and a single Snowy Owl in Greensboro and a Golden Eagle at Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge. The highest species counts for the 51 count locations in North Carolina were at the coast: Morehead City and Wilmington tying with 164, followed by Southport with 156 and Holly Shelter with 140. Tidewater counts were led by Lake Mattamuskeet’s 128, Pamlico County’s 117, New Bern’s 114, and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge’s 103. Coastal Plain counts were led by Greenville with 104, Rocky Mount with 96, Cumberland County with 85, and Wayne County with 83. Leading Piedmont counts had totals of 99 at Raleigh, 97 at Greensboro, 96 at Southern Pines and S. Lake Norman, and 95 at Durham and Charlotte. Mountains counts were led by Balsam’s 70, Brevard’s 69, Franklin’s 64, and Buncombe County’s 62.

This year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count will mobilize over 72,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,500 locations across the Western Hemisphere – 51 locations in North Carolina. 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 in North Carolina will record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area, contributing to a vast community science network that continues a tradition stretching back more than 100 years.  

To date over 300 peer-reviewed articles have resulted from analysis done with Christmas Bird Count data. Bird-related community 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 global warming 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.

Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun, nationwide community 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 visit  

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. 118 years of counting birds is a long time, but the program somehow brings out the best in people, and they stay involved for the long run. And so the tradition continues.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a community science project organized by the National Audubon Society. There is no fee to participate and the quarterly report, Ameican 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 learn more. For more information and to find a count near you visit

Audubon North Carolina is a state office of the National Audubon Society.

About Audubon

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, 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 @audubonsociety.

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