Christmas Bird Counts

Northern Cardinal by Ray Hennessy


The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running community science bird project in the United States. It originated as the holiday “Christmas Side Hunt” prior to the 20th century, when hunters would compete to see who could bring in the largest feathered and furred quarry.

In 1900, Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the nascent Audubon movement, proposed a different kind of tradition—a “Christmas Bird Census” where people could count instead of hunt birds.

This century old tradition of collecting data is a treasure chest for scientists, and gives us insight into the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

The Christmas Bird Count today

Nationwide, the Christmas Bird Counts occur between December 14 and January 5 each winter. Each Count takes place in a 15-mile diameter circle, and is organized by a Compiler. The Compiler assigns volunteers to specific routes through the circle, where they count every bird they see or hear all day.
Christmas Bird Count (photo: Christine McCluskey)

Christmas Bird Count (photo: Christine McCluskey)

It’s easy to participate:

  1. Select a Count you’d like to participate in and contact the Compiler (we’ll publish their contact information close to Count time!). There are three Christmas Bird Counts that cover Bedford Audubon’s communities of service.
    • The Peekskill-Northern Westchester Count is typically the third Saturday in December.
    • The Greenwich-Stamford Count is traditionally the third Sunday in December.
    • The Putnam County Count is typically the day after New Year’s.
  2. Follow the route assigned by your Compiler. If you’re a beginning birder, you’ll be teamed up with more experienced birders.
  3. Meet and share your results with the Compiler at the end of the day.