Take place in Elkhart County's holiday tradition: Christmas Bird Count

ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. - Grab your binoculars to take place in an over 123-year holiday tradition: Christmas Bird Count. 

Before the 20th century, bird hunting, known as Christmas "Side Hunt" was the holiday tradition, a competition to bring in the biggest pile of feathered or furred animals. 

Seeing the decline in bird population, Ornithologist Frank M. Chapman proposed a new holiday, Christmas Bird Census, to count birds rather than hunt them. 

Beginning in 1900, Christmas Bird Count (CBC) started with 27 volunteers across 25 locations worldwide. 

Now, in connection with the National Audubon Society, CBC is in over 20 countries in the western hemisphere, including in Latin America and the Carribean. 

Continuing Chapman's efforts, Christmas Bird Counts are hosted worldwide every year between December 14 to January 5. 

This holiday season, the 124th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count will utilize over 80,000 volunteer bird counters within over 26,000 locations worldwide. 

Locally, on Saturday, December 28, Elkhart County Parks is hosting their 28th annual Christmas Bird Count. 

Ronda DeCaire, who's has led the bird count in Elkhart since its inception in Elkhart County, sees the tradition expand more and more each year. 

“Last year a team of 71 volunteers discovered more than 81 different species and 22,100 individual birds during this one-day citizen science event," DeCaire stated in a press release. 

Elkhart County is still seeking volunteer bird counters to help compile a record of birds in the area and contribute to the tradition. 

“We have a very committed group of birders, some who have assisted with the Elkhart count for several decades," said DeCaire.

She also encourages any resident who lives within the county circle to join and count from the comfort of their home.

“Any resident who lives within the county circle is welcome to bird from the comfort of their homes and land and enhance the value of the data collected by our field teams."

The Elkhart Bog is one of the sites surveyed during the Christmas Bird Count by area bird watchers. | Elkhart County Parks

Here's how it works: 

  • Since CBC is a census, bird counters need to work with an existing CBC circle.
  • Each Christmas Bird Count must take place in an established 15-mile diameter circle. Volunteers can follow a specific route with a team, counting every individual bird they see or hear, not just by species. The Elkhart County circle extends from the state line on the north to Waterford Mills on the south. This includes Bristol, Middlebury, Goshen and parts of Elkhart. 
  • Volunteers need to bring their own transportation and binoculars.
  • To participate, volunteers need to register by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 28 by calling 574-535-6458 or e-mail [email protected] with their name, address and phone number to receive more information and a bird count form. View Elkhart County Parks' website for more information and read a list of Audubon's FAQs

When the final count is tallied, read the 124th Christmas Bird Count results on Audubon's website

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