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This Census Is For The Birds - 2020 Christmas Bird Count Is Underway

Jennifer Kuroda

The Christmas Bird Count is a "bird census" program with the National Audubon Society. Every year for the past 121 years -- in the United States, Canada and beyond -- thousands of volunteers have gone out over a 24-hour period and counted birds.

Jennifer Kuroda is the president of the Sinnissippi Audubon Society. She said counting birds help scientists track specific birds.

"Knowing where the birds are moving and how climate change has altered their space is important for future conservation needs," she said.

Kuroda said that by tracking how bird ranges change over time, conservation efforts can be prioritized around that information.

"If bird species are shifting," she said, "one of the things that's very important is to make sure we maintain this habitat for those birds."

Kuroda has been participating in the counts for about ten years.

"The first year I participated, it was rainy. I was wet, I didn't dress appropriately," she said. "So it was definitely a learning experience."

Still, Kuroda has fond memories of that time because she was paired with an "expert-level birder."

"It was absolutely incredible," she said. "I learned so much that first year."

Because of the pandemic, Kuroda said bird counters are asked to social distance and wear masks. This year she is going out to count in the Kishwaukee Forest Preserve area with her daughter Jackie on December 26. To prepare, she said she plans to dress in layers and get a good night of sleep.

"The break of dawn is usually when you'll start counting birds," she said. "The count does last all day long. And if you're participating in any kind of owl count, you are out there even before dawn. You're out there in the dark listening for owl calls to count."

Credit Connie Kuntz
Song sparrow.

There are dozens of active count circles in Illinois taking part in this free event that runs Dec. 14-Jan. 5. Kuroda said to just zoom in on this map or enter your city in the search engine to find an Audubon-approved count circle near you.

Citing the pandemic, Kuroda said, "We are all kind of in our own areas this year, but if you're interested in birds, it's a lot of fun to get out there. And right now, it's just fun to find something to do in this weird, strange time that we're living in."