Audubon Christmas Bird Count Begins, Delta Region Highlights Local Opportunities

Conservationists in the Mississippi River Delta region have announced local details about this year’s Audubon Christmas Bird Count: the longest-running citizen science wildlife survey in the world. There are numerous opportunities for Louisianans to participate in this celebrated international tradition. Running December 14 – January 5, the count spans the Arctic to the Andes and is now in its 113th year.

“Christmas Bird Count participants experience seasonal gifts of unforgettable sightings,” said Erik Johnson, director of bird conservation at Audubon Louisiana. “Nearly half of North America’s bird species, and about 40% of its waterfowl, spend at least part of their lives in the Mississippi Flyway,” Johnson added. “With many species residing or migrating through our region, abundant observation opportunities can be enjoyed in the field and in our own backyards.”

Photo Credit: Red-breasted Nuthatch, by Erik I. Johnson

This year, scientists and citizen participants can look for some unusual occurrences among interesting species. Grosbeaks, finches and nuthatches are irrupting as lack of food in Canadian forests sends these seed-eaters to New England and across the Great Lakes to Minnesota (map) and in some cases, all the way to the Gulf Coast. Audubon experts are seeing species well outside their normal range and in unusual numbers: Red-breasted Nuthatches have been reported in coastal Mississippi by the Pascagoula Audubon Center; Evening Grosbeaks are drifting farther south and could move as far south as the Carolinas and Georgia.

The data that citizen scientists provide to the science and conservation communities while conducting Christmas Bird Counts are irreplaceable for understanding bird species distributions and population trends at continental scales. In the Mississippi River Delta region, data from the Christmas Bird Count have enabled scientists to understand bird population trends along the Gulf Coast and to track birds’ responses to climate change. In a region where land loss, severe storms and changing water levels impact communities, businesses, and birds alike, scientific understanding of changing trends and ecosystems is invaluable.

This year, there are new reasons for Christmas Bird Count participants to get excited: fees to participate will be dropped to encourage greater participation. The annual published report, American Birds, will go digital in 2013, saving paper and broadening access. Christmas Bird Count information will be available online in Spanish for the first time.

Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold celebrated the annual tradition in a press statement: “The Audubon Christmas Bird Count harnesses volunteer power to gather knowledge that shapes conservation policy at enormous scales in this country. I couldn’t be prouder of the 60,000-plus volunteers who contribute each year: This is the largest, longest-running animal census on the planet, and we’re all proud to be a part of the CBC. And with the elimination of fees, we’re looking forward to even more people having a role in this adventure.”

To find a count near you, visit:

To learn more from Erik Johnson, director of bird conservation at Audubon Louisiana, visit his blog.

Louisiana Christmas Bird Count Dates:

December 14: Lacassine NWR-Thornwell
December 15: Shreveport; Sabine NWR; D’Arbonne
December 16: Sweet Lake-Cameron Prairie NWR
December 20: Claiborne; Grand Isle
December 21: Pine Prairie; New Iberia
December 22: Natchitoches; New Orleans; Natchez
December 26: Lafayette
December 27: White Lake
December 28: St. Tammany Parish; Catahoula NWR
December 29: Cheneyville-LeCompte; Venice; Johnson’s Bayou
December 30: Northshore-Slidell; Reserve-Bonnet Carre Spillway
January 2: Creole
January 3: Crowley
January 5: Baton Rouge
January 5: Bossier-Caddo-Bienville