A New Wyoming Christmas Bird Count

Updated: Jan 4

Currently, there are 22 Christmas Bird Count circles that occur in Wyoming. I am proposing a 23rd.

Greater White-fronted Goose in a flocking of Cackling Goose

Update 01/03/2020: We are postponing the trial run of this count until the next Christmas Bird Count season!

History of the Christmas Bird Count

According to the National Audubon Society, the origins of the Christmas Bird Count began as an alternative to winter "hunt:"

Prior to the turn of the 20th century, hunters engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas "Side Hunt." They would choose sides and go afield with their guns—whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won.
Conservation was in its beginning stages in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition—a "Christmas Bird Census" that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.
So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of 27 dedicated birders, 25 Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. The locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California with most counts in or near the population centers of northeastern North America. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined.


This significant shift in ideologies would eventually lead to the formation of groups like the National Audubon Society.

Modern Christmas Bird Counts

Today, CBCs occur across the globe from December 14th to November 5th. Counters disperse across a 15-mile circle to count birds for 24 hours (or less). The data collected by these citizen scientists allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. A great example is the ground-breaking publication on the mass decreases in bird populations.

Modern Christmas Bird Counts also present great opportunities to get people of all ages away from technology and out enjoying the natural world during a season where the outdoors are often considered taboo. In fact, in the 2018/2019 CBC season, almost 80,000 people got outside and helped to count birds! That's impressive!

The New Count

Proposed Goshen Hole Christmas Bird Count

Goshen Hole is the new proposed Wyoming Christmas Bird Count circle. With a center at the junction of WY 161 and CR 47, the circle includes Spring/Bump Sullivan WHMA and Table Mountain WHMA. Additionally, a large number of ag fields from the fertile Platte River Valley will be included. This circle can provide a great snapshot of wintering waterfowl populations in the Platte River Valley in Wyoming.

How to Help

Date: TBD

Time: 07:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Location: Meet at McDonald's

As with all Christmas Bird Counts, help is needed. For optimal circle coverage, counts need a minimum of 10 people. For the test year count, I am asking for help from birders of all levels of experience. I will be sending invitations to all chapters in the region, including Nebraska! If you happen to live in the count circle, we will be looking for places to visit feeders and other areas birds may congregate.

For the future, I would encourage Audubon chapters, and proactive individuals, to consider other areas of Wyoming where bird counts would be beneficial for gaining insight into bird populations in our state. If you are interested in starting a Christmas Bird Count, read more instructions, here.

If you are interested in joining the Goshen Hole Christmas Bird Count, email me at zhutchinson@audubon.org.


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