The long tradition of Christmas bird counts provide people interested in birds opportunities to make new acquaintances, renew old friendships, and learn more about birds and birdwatching in Kansas. The counts also provide important information about bird migration and population trends.
Christmas bird counts have been conducted for more than 100 years, and more than 2,000 counts are held across the nation each year. Kansas averages 50 counts per year, with more than 40 scheduled so far this year and others yet to be announced. Many counts are concentrated in the eastern and southern parts of the state, but in recent years, more have been conducted in western Kansas — such as Elkhart and Ulysses — providing additional opportunities to participate.
Christmas bird counts are conducted in circular census areas with a 7.5 mile radius. This is consistent from count-to-count and year-to-year, always surveying the same location, ensuring data collected is comparable for population trends over time.
Count events are easy to prepare for; the best tools being a pair of binoculars, a good field guide, and appropriate clothing and footwear for possible extreme weather. For those counting in an area with a lake, a good spotting scope can be extremely helpful in identifying birds at a distance. It’s also a good idea to study species expected in your location.
There are many count compilers in Kansas who send data to the Kansas Ornithological Society (KOS), and these counts are free. The KOS will accept data collected on counts conducted from Dec. 9 through Jan. 13, 2013. The official Audubon Christmas Bird Count period is Dec. 14 to Jan. 5 every year and this year, there is no longer a $5 fee for field participants.
Information about Kansas Christmas bird counts can be found at the KOS website, www.ksbirds.org. For details, just click “2012-2013 Kansas Christmas Bird Counts.” For more information about Audubon Christmas Bird Counts in Kansas, go to birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.
Image courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism