Saturday, December 16, 2017

Prior to the turn of the century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”: They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won. Conservation was in its beginning stages around the turn of the 20th century, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition-a “Christmas Bird Census”-that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Frank M. Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. The locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California with most counts in or near the population centers of northeastern North America. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined. This year marks the 118th Christmas Bird Count.

Each December, birders interesting in participating in the CBC can sign up and join in through the Audubon website. From December 14 through January 5 each year tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the effort. The data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and place over the past hundred years.

There is a specific methodology to the CBC, and all participants must make arrangements to participate in advance with the circle compiler, but anyone can participate. Each count takes place on one day in an established 15-mile wide diameter circle, and is organized by a count compiler. Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. The Elko Count Circle includes portions of Elko, Spring Creek, and South Fork.  It’s not just a species tally–all individual birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day.

From December 14 through January 5 each year tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the effort. 

If you are a beginning birder, you will be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher. If your home is within the boundaries of the CBC circle, then you can even report the birds that visit your feeder on count day as long as you have made prior arrangement with the count compiler.

Come join the members of Bristlecone Audubon as they hold their 28th Elko Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 16, 2017.  Everyone is welcome and all levels of experience can participate, new birders will be partnered with experienced members.  Groups will go out on assigned routes which take an average of 4 to 6 hours to complete. At 4:30 p.m. all count information is turned in at the annual potluck dinner where the data is compiled and preliminary results can be announced.

For more information contact: Lois K. Ports at

775-753-2569 or

by Thursday, Dec. 14th.