birding

Merry Christmas Bird Count

Back in the 19th century, what we now know as the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was the Christmas Side Hunt. The winning hunter would be the one who brought back the most prey. So how did this hunt get to be a bird census? More importantly, how do you tell who wins?

Back then, Americans were much more interested in hunting than in conservation. However, even the most driven hunters were beginning to notice that certain bird species were in decline. In 1900, the ornithologist Frank M. Chapman (officer of the very young Audubon Society) proposed a Christmas Bird Census instead of the traditional Christmas Side Hunt. That year, twenty-seven birders all over North America counted 18,500 birds in 89 species. A new Christmas tradition had begun.

So who wins the Christmas Bird Count? You guessed it: everybody, especially the birds. CBC data, gathered by citizen scientists for over a hundred years, provides an indispensable long view of the health and distribution of bird populations all over North America. 

Want to learn more, see the data archives, maybe get involved yourself? Signups begin every November, and the single-day counts take place starting a couple of weeks before Christmas. Check out the Christmas Bird Count on the Audubon website here

OMG! Birding Abbreviations

Go into the field with a flock of birders and you may hear abbreviations you've never heard before. "FOS"? First of season. "BOP"?  Bird of prey. Odd as they might sound, abbreviations are useful for jotting notes in a field journal with minimal time lost. Here are a few others that might be new to you. For example:

LBJ = Little brown job. (We have also heard this as "LBB" = little brown bird.)

UFR = Unidentified flying raptor. 

BVD = Better view desired. (No, not the long underwear).

Besides these general field abbreviations, there are also species abbreviations, such as:

TUVU or TV = Turkey Vulture.

MODO = Mourning Dove.

RWBL = Red-Winged Blackbird. 

We wonder whether birds have abbreviations for us. We imagine ones like these:

MTN = Much too noisy.

SGB = Squinty guy with binoculars. 

SYC = Shivering, yawning, and complaining.

For more species abbreviations, check out the Birding Species list at the American Ornithological Union. As for general field abbreviations, well, you might just have to PTUOYO (= pick them up on your own).