April 24, 2024

Bird lovers are welcome to kick off winter by joining a Christmas Bird Count. A tradition since 1900, the Christmas Bird Count is North America’s longest-running wildlife census.

People of all ages and skill levels are welcome to participate free of charge in the one-day bird census.

Boreal Owl. (Photo by Nate Kohler / Ontario Nature)

Although the Christmas Bird Count is a one-day event, each bird count location holds a separate event between Dec. 14, 2018 to Jan. 5, 2019.

For example, Waterloo Region Nature is holding its Christmas Bird Count in the Kitchener area on Dec. 15 and then in the Cambridge area on Dec. 16. Visit the Ontario Nature website to find out where and when counts are happening. For a list of counts happening outside Ontario, visit the Bird Studies Canada website.

Every volunteer who braves the elements to take part in a count contributes to the study and conservation of birds. Data collected is used by scientists to monitor the health and status of resident and migratory birds, and to develop conservation strategies for species in decline and their habitats. The Christmas Bird Count also teaches citizen scientists about the myriad bird species that live in and migrate through Ontario.

“The Christmas Bird Count is a great way for bird lovers of all ages to help Ontario’s birds,” said Emma Horrigan, Ontario Nature’s conservation projects and education manager. “Novices work alongside experts to collect important data that help guide work on behalf of all birds across the province. And who knows… maybe you’ll see a rare bird that no one has recorded before.”

Red-throated loon. (Photo by Peter Massas / Ontario Nature)

More than 14,000 Canadians participated in over 450 Christmas Bird Counts across the country last year. Participants recorded 2.4 million birds. In Ontario, 4,435 citizen scientists tallied 231 species and 1,277,568 individual birds throughout the province.

Some highlights from last year’s Ontario counts include:

  • Spotting of red-shouldered hawks, black-billed magpies and red-throated loons
  • Record numbers of snow buntings and dark-eyed juncos were counted in and around Kingston
  • The first-ever golden eagles and a record 30 bald eagles were recorded during the Hanover-Walkerton count
  • Record 410 American goldfinches were recorded in Niagara Falls
  • Unusual sightings around Lake Simcoe included two golden-crowned kinglets and a mockingbird
  • Count participants tallied a record 192 hooded mergansers and 103 red-bellied woodpeckers in Hamilton
  • Rare sightings in Thunder Bay included a boreal owl, a brown thrasher and a white-crowned sparrow

Many counts are followed by social gatherings with potluck meals.

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