The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore – which evolved into Audubon magazine – suggested an alternative to the holiday “side hunt,” in which teams had competed to see who could shoot the most birds. Instead, Dr. Chapman set up a competition to count and compile records of birds. It has now become the longest-running citizen science survey, where your active participation adds to this rich and important data collection.  It's also a lot of fun!

On Saturday, December 26th, birders and nature enthusiasts in Fort Myers will take part in this tradition, many rising before dawn to participate.

Locally, SWFL Audubon member  Jayne Johnston is once again arranging the Orange River Circle Count.  She writes us,


This is a chance for you to spend time with your family outside--you can do this at home watching bird feeders and counting in your yard, OR visiting a local spot within the circle with your own family, socially distanced from others while wearing a face covering.


If you do not feel safe participating, I completely and thoroughly understand. There will always be count 122 next year.


For participants, I will host a handful of Zoom presentations covering the count history, introducing you to common birds, tips on identification, and photographic options that will help with id.


Please let me know if you would like to participate so I can send the Zoom invites (in December) or have any questions. Thank you!

If you are interested in attending Jayne's zoom session or participating in the Orange River Circle Count, contact Jayne at

This year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count will mobilize over 72,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,500 locations across the Western Hemisphere. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count utilizes the power of volunteers to track the health of bird populations at a scale that scientists could never accomplish alone. Data compiled in Fort Myers will record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area, contributing to a vast citizen science network that continues a tradition stretching back more than 100 years. 

Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun, nationwide citizen science project, which provides ornithologists with a crucial snapshot of our native bird populations during the winter months. Each individual count is performed in a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles. At least ten volunteers, including a compiler to coordinate the process, count in each circle. The volunteers break up into small parties and follow assigned routes, which change little from year to year, counting every bird they see. In most count circles, some people also watch feeders instead of following routes.


There is no fee to participate and the quarterly report, American Birds, is available online.

Counts are open to birders of all skill levels and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to learn more. 

For more information and to find where else you can join a Christmas Bird Count, visit

© 2019 Audubon of Southwest Florida, INC. 

Post Office Box 61041
Fort Myers, Florida 33906-1041

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