This year is the National Audubon Society’s 116th annual Christmas Bird Count, one of the largest (if not the largest) citizen science initiatives in the nation. Volunteers from across the country will count and identify the birds that visit their home feeders sometime between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, and the Audubon Society compiles all that information to track trends in bird populations, migrations and other data.
If you are participating (or thinking about participating) in the bird count, the library is a great place to start. We have dozens of different field guides – covering all of North America down to birds of Wisconsin – to help identify the birds you see in the backyard and beyond! You can even check out an audiobook to learn birds by their song, and several libraries in our Wisconsin Valley Library Service system even carry bird watching kits, complete with books, CDs and binoculars! If that’s not enough, owners of a tablet or smartphone (Apple or Android-based) can download the free Audubon Bird Guide app, with thousands of images covering more than 800 species, hours of bird songs to hear and the ability to locate other birds recently spotted around you. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology developed its own eBird app specifically for iOS to contribute to its global online database.
While the Christmas Bird Count is a bit more formal as far as the process, the Audubon Society also organizes the Great Backyard Bird Count over President’s Day weekend each February (Feb. 12-16, 2016). Participants in that count spend 15 minutes or more during at least one day of the four-day event, and report the findings on the website birdcount.org. The GBBC even includes a photo contest!
The counts are a great way to contribute to a long-running ornithological initiative, but they also don’t have to be the only reason to check out some of our field guides. All of this information is available year-round for both the experienced and novice avian enthusiasts. And, if the guide you want isn’t located at your home library, you can request it and have the title sent to the most convenient location for pickup or let us know and we’ll request it for you!
image credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/linnet-garden-bird-british-uk-red-1251022