Count the Birds this Christmas

Think beyond swans a-swimming, geese a-laying, calling birds, french hens and turtledoves this year—join the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, spot as many species as you can and do your part for citizen science this year.

DECEMBER 15, 2017—Did you know that the U.S. christmas bird counts reported 641 species during last year’s Audubon Christmas Bird Count? The 118th annual bird count kicks off this week, and there are numerous opportunities to take part in the Tennessee Valley. TVA employees and the public are welcome to sign up for as many counts as they wish—no birdwatching expertise is required.

cardinal on a branch in the snow

The annual count is a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society, with over 100 years of citizen science involvement. It is an early-winter bird census, where thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada and many countries in the Western Hemisphere go out over a 24-hour period on one calendar day to count birds.

The bird counts are conducted within established 15-mile circles all over the country. Most circles in the TVA region contain some TVA-managed lands. Volunteers sign up for a particular count, then spend that day within the circle, noting all the birds they see.

All counts will be held between now and Jan. 5.

“There is a specific way to do it,” explains Damien Simbeck, watershed representative with TVA Natural Resources. “Anyone can take part—you just need to sign up in advance. Volunteers follow specified routes through the circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a count of any specific type of birds—all birds are counted all day. And don’t worry if you’ve never done this before—if you are a beginning birder, you’ll be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher.”

Simbeck is an official compiler for a count in Savannah, Tenn., and participates in another count in Alabama, both of which contain large TVA parcels. There are many other counts that include portions of TVA-managed land.

Volunteers who aren’t able to walk the routes may still be able to participate.

“If your home is within the boundaries of a bird count circle, then you can stay at home and report the birds that visit your feeder on count day,” said Simbeck. “You just need to arrange it ahead of time with the count compiler.”

Click here to find the map of circles. Click on a circle to bring up information on how to join.

8 Tips for Better Birdwatching

Winter is here, and with it some of the best birdwatching of the year. You can find many fine feathered friends on TVA public lands—but your own back yard will also offer incredible avian views, if you know how to look. Take our advice for spotting featured friends.