Environment
8:00 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Christmas Bird Count Underway

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is inviting wildlife enthusiasts to help in the Audubon Society's 112th Annual Christmas Bird Count. Last year, 62,624 people counted more than 60 million birds throughout the United States, Canada, and Latin America.

Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser said that information gathered during the event is very helpful.

"The data collected throughout the effort, which is the longest running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations, allows researchers, conservationists, biologists, and others interested in studying the long-term health and status of bird populations across the United States," Feaser said.

The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900, when Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore, suggested that people hunt birds to count them rather than as a shooting competition.

Feaser said that the holiday season is the best time for counting birds. "There are different counts that are done during the migration period," said Feaser. "But this one is best for identifying those birds that stay in a state year-round."

According to the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology, there are 401 Class 1 species of birds in Pennsylvania. Class 1 means that the species has been documented by identifiable specimens, diagnostic photography, or diagnostic recordings.

During the count, volunteers form "Count Circles" and focus on specific geographic areas. Each circle has a "Count Compiler," who is an experienced bird watcher that enables beginner volunteers to learn as they help. In the Pittsburgh region, 13 circles, including Frick Park, Highland Park, and North Park, will be counting on December 31.

Pennsylvania bird counts began on December 14th and run through January 5th. Information on local circles can be found on the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania's website.