Bird lovers of all ages and skill levels are invited to celebrate the 122nd anniversary of the Christmas Bird Count by joining one of the many counts happening across Ontario this holiday season. It’s a great way to explore nature while helping collect important data on our feathered friends. Consider making the Christmas Bird Count a part of your family holiday tradition this year.
The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900, and today it is North America’s longest-running wildlife census. Many local counts are organized by birding and nature clubs, and everyone is welcome to attend free of charge.
This year’s Christmas Bird Count will run from Dec. 14, 2021 to Jan. 5, 2022. Ontario Nature member groups are organizing nearly 50 counts in the province this season. Visit the Ontario Nature website (ontarionature.org/cbc) to find a count near you. For a comprehensive list of counts happening Canada, visit the Birds Canada website (bsc-eoc.org/volunteer/cbc).
Always fun, even when the weather is chilly, every volunteer who braves the elements to take part in a count contributes to the study and conservation of birds. Scientists use the data collected to monitor the health and status of resident and migratory birds over time, and to develop conservation strategies for species in decline and their habitats. The Christmas Bird Count also teaches community scientists about the myriad bird species that live in and migrate through their communities.
“The Christmas Bird Count is a great way for bird lovers of all ages to help Ontario’s birds. 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,” says Emma Horrigan, Ontario Nature’s Conservation Projects and Education Manager.
Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic did little to dampen Ontario bird lovers’ enthusiasm for the Christmas Bird Count. In fact, eight more counts were conducted throughout the province than in the previous year. Many of those counts were hosted by Ontario Nature member groups.
Here are some highlights from last year’s Ontario counts:
- The first ever hermit thrush and record numbers of trumpeter swans, red-breasted mergansers and bald eagles were seen during the Orillia count
- A record 10 Cooper’s hawks were recorded in Napanee
- Unusual sightings in Guelph included 16 eastern screech owls, nine winter wrens and the first ever eastern phoebe
- Count participants tallied a record 632 white-breasted nuthatches and 11 wood ducks in Ottawa-Gatineau
- A common raven was recorded in Woodstock for only the second time
- Waterfowl highlights in Hamilton included canvasbacks, northern pintails and greater scaups
- Notable sightings in Peterborough included the belted kingfisher, yellow-rumped warbler and hoary redpoll
- Highlights from Thunder Bay included 15 rough-legged hawks and nine golden-crowned kinglets
What avian rarities and trends will be uncovered this year? Join a Christmas Bird Count to find out.