Regional birders recently got out their binoculars and notepads and took part in a one-of-a-kind bird-watching marathon. Some braved frigid winter temperatures, and many did whatever else it took to count as many birds as they could in 24 hours.
The National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count tells scientists a lot about how birds across the Americas are doing. The National Audubon Society tallies up the results from counts done by individuals and groups, including the Hulah Reservoir Christmas Bird Count and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Christmas Bird Count.
Don Wolfe, senior biologist at the Sutton Avian Research Center, talks more about the event.
1 What is the Christmas Bird Count?
The National Audubon Society coordinates Christmas Bird Counts all across North America. They are typically a 15-mile diameter circle with a defined center point.
CBCs started in 1900, and have been done annually for 118 years, although any given CBC would have a shorter span and some have been discontinued while new CBCs are started.
Over 2000 CBCs are conducted across North America each year. All CBCs are conducted for a 24-hour period (midnight to midnight) on a selected date that be anywhere from Dec. 14 - Jan. 5 All birds seen are identified and counted, and hours and miles walking and hours and miles driving are recorded, as well as other effort metrics and weather conditions.
Although weather and observer effort can vary considerably from year to year, the longevity of CBCs provides valuable information on changes in winter distribution, and in some cases, overall population trends.
2 How long has it been going on locally?
Of the two local CBCs, the Hulah Reservoir CBC has been done annually since 1963 (55 years), and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve CBC has been conducted annually since 1998 (20 years).
3 How many species of birds were spotted during this year’s count?
The Hulah Reservoir CBC counted 97 species this year, and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve CBC counted 74 species this year.
4 What are the most endangered birds in Oklahoma?
There are a number of endangered bird species that migrate through Oklahoma, but the two species that breed in Oklahoma that are probably the most endangered are the Least Tern and the Black-capped Vireo.
5 What year had the highest species counted?
The highest species count for the Hulah Reservoir CBC was in 2016, with 110 species. The highest species count for the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve CBC was 87 species, in 2004.
— Emily Droege