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Audubon’s 'Christmas Bird Count' is underway in North Carolina

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Cedar-Waxwing Juniperus feeding on blue berries.

Some North Carolinians across the state are participating in the 123rd Audubon Christmas Bird Count. The event began on Dec. 14 and goes through Jan. 5.

The National Audubon Society first started the count in 1896. Curtis Smalling, the director of conservation for Audubon North Carolina, said the count started with a group in New England. They wanted to conserve birds after what they thought were too many being hunted.

“Let's offer an alternative to this hunt, let's just let people go count what they see instead of kill what they see,” he said. “And, so that’s how it started, and it's been kind of, you know, a mainstay of the National Audubon Society's work ever since.”

Last year, Smalling said there were nearly 2,000 volunteers that counted bird species throughout North Carolina from the mountains to the coast.

“So we had a total last year in North Carolina 220 species and 796,827 individual birds were counted in North Carolina, during the Christmas count season,” he said.

That's a decrease from 2020. Smalling said the total was more than 1.3 million birds and 227 species that year.

This year, volunteers will be counting birds through local Audubon Bird Count organizations throughout the state, including Durham, Chapel Hill, and Rocky Mount.

The birds are counted within a 15-mile radius of each local Audubon organization. People can count alone or in groups. To find out when a count is going on locally, visit Audubon’s website.

Sharryse Piggott is the American Homefront Project Veterans Reporting Fellow.
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