Christmas Bird Count

December  16, 2013

      While most of us will spend the holidays celebrating with family and friends, a Quad Cities man will devote most of the next three weeks to his binoculars and notebook. The annual Christmas Bird Count started Sunday (12/15) at thousands of sites in North and South America.

      If the weather allows, wildlife biologist Kelly McKay, from Hampton, will spend 23 days in a row in "field counts" across eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois.  He says the main variable each year is the weather - for example, harsh weather means fewer members of the "semi-hardy species" will be counted.

      "Things like robins, waxwings, and yellow bellied sapsuckers - those are all semi-hardy birds that when you get really harsh weather, it tends to push them out or they don't survive it."

      And more ice on the rivers means fewer eagles, and ducks and other waterfowl.

      McKay says each year up to 50,000 people participate in the Christmas Bird Count.

      "If you don't feel like spending all day in a field party, you can count birds at your feeder in your back yard too. We have feeder watchers as well. There's a number of ways people can get involved and we can always use more help."

      Results are tabulated each year by the National Audubon Society, and usually available by the following October. This year there will be about 80 counts in Illinois from December 15th through January 5th, and 40 in Iowa. 


(photo courtesy of Steve Hager at Augustana College)