For the 123rd year in a row, the Christmas Bird Count is happening all over the country. Bird enthusiasts and nature lovers head outside, take a census of birds in their area and report what they’ve found to the National Audubon Society, a nonprofit conservation organization.
Always planned around the holidays, the count has been called the longest running citizen science project in the world.
Recently, though, the project has shown a drop in some bird populations. Last year’s Christmas counts in Texas showed the biggest rate of decline in bird numbers in 14 years, according to a report from the Audubon Society.
Texas bird counts now “have had five years in a row where declining species out-numbered increasing species,” the study says. “Ninety-one species (24%) were at their lowest level for the decade.”
But there may also be reasons unique to Texas that explain a sudden drop in numbers.
“The lack of birds has become readily apparent and left many wondering the same thing – ‘Where Have All the Birds Gone?'” writes birder Noreen Baker as part of Travis Audubon’s Ask-a-Birder project.
Baker was responding to a question from Wes Renick, manager of Wild Birds Unlimited, who says people are noticing fewer birds at their backyard feeders and bird baths.
The reasons, Baker speculates, could include recent drought and the 2021 winter storm, which “did kill birds over a large area.”
Less troubling reasons for this year’s decline in Texas bird sightings could be that there has been more food available in other states that has postponed or slowed bird migrations through Texas.
The point is that we need more data, and that’s where you can come in. You can help your local Audubon group do its count for the year – go here for the Houston area and here for Central Texas to learn more. Links for other areas are there as well. The counting goes through January 5, so go click now if you want to participate.