Sanibel Sea School will participate in Sanibel’s Christmas Bird Count again this year and we couldn’t be more excited! An early winter bird census conducted by volunteers and administered by the National Audubon Society, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is the longest running citizen science project. This year marks its 117th anniversary, and our team will be heading out on Saturday, December 17th on foot, by boat, and by car to see how many species and individuals we can observe, recording data along the way.
The CBC was started on Christmas Day 1900 by Dr. Frank Chapman. He came up with the idea as a spinoff from the traditional Christmas hunt, during which people would go out to see how many animals they could kill and bring home. Dr. Chapman, being the pioneer conservationist that he was, thought that the tradition could be changed to help wildlife instead of harming it. The first CBC consisted of 27 birders in 25 areas across North America, and participants were able to observe 90 different species of birds. The CBC has grown over the years, with 2015’s CBC covering 2,505 circles, each of which are 15 miles in diameter. Last year's Count had 76,669 observers in the field across North America, Latin America, Bermuda and the Pacific Islands and tallied 58,878,071 birds, which were made up of 2,607 different species.
All of the data from the Christmas Bird Count can give researchers and wildlife agencies a long-term look at distribution patterns and population trends. Birds are often looked at as bio-indicator species that can represent the vitality of a habitat. If there is a change in the bird population, we are able to respond and restore their habitat before the there is a significant loss of diversity. The CBC’s long-term perspective helps conservationists monitor and protect the birds and their habitats effectively.