Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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The Christmas Bird Count

The Christmas Bird count began in 1900 and has become one of the longest running wildlife censuses in the world, with more than 121 years of data recorded. What is the Christmas Bird Count, you may ask? Well, people from all over the United States, Canada, Central America, and islands in the Caribbean can volunteer to help Audubon society count birds from December 14 to January 5.

This tradition began during a time when many “side hunts” were held at Christmas time and conservationists became concerned with the declining populations of native birds. During “side hunts,” hunters would pick a side of a field and whoever had the biggest pile of feathered or furred quarry at the end would be the winner.

The Audubon Society relies on thousands of volunteers each year to help collect data on bird populations.  That data is then used to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America, as well as track changing migratory patterns.  Combined with other studies, this data can help give scientists and conservation biologists a picture of how bird populations have changed over the past 100 years. These counts can also help identify environmental issues that may affect bird populations and strategies to help future bird populations.  

Check out how you can get involved with the Christmas Bird Count and many other bird initiatives at

Even if birding is not your forte, there are plenty of other ways you can help our feathered friends this holiday season. The holidays can be a joyous time but they can also create a lot of waste, which ends up in landfills and waterways.  This waste can then be ingested by wildlife, causing digestive blockages.  Birds can also become tangled in discarded cords, ribbon and twine, leaving them susceptible to predators and the elements. Some ideas to help cut down on your waste this season are: 

Use tote bags, a blanket or fabric instead of wrapping paper and bows.

Buy “experience” gifts (movie tickets, admission to a zoo, etc.) instead of physical ones. Check out some examples here:

Give the gift of your time. Volunteer in your community, go shopping or cook meals for busy relatives, offer to babysit and give your friends the night off.

Make gift tags using recycled paper and seeds; the recipient can then plant the tag in the spring to grow flowers.  Follow the instructions here:

Skip the plastic ribbons and fancy paper.  Wrap gifts in plain brown or recycled papers that can then be reused or repurposed. 

What are some ways that you cut down on waste this time of year?

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