2020 Christmas Bird Count

The National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC) represents perhaps one of the largest and most comprehensive animal censuses on the planet. The power of this incredible survey is attributed to the tens of thousands of volunteers that participate every year. Currently, the CBC has count circles in every US state and Canadian Province, and has expanded into Mexico, Central and South America, and the Carribean Islands. The data collected from the Christmas Bird Count are used for various research projects and conservation efforts. The long history of the CBC allows researchers and resource managers to determine population trends of North American birds at both a regional and continental scale

Researchers participate in the 2020 Christmas Bird Count at Freshkills Park | Photo: José Ramirez-Garofalo

Each year, from December 14th through January 5th, the Christmas Bird Count welcomes birders of all ages and skill levels to come out and enjoy a day of rigorously counting all the birds seen or heard in a designated count circle. Circles are 15 miles in diameter and are always centered at the same location. To ensure greater coverage, smaller parties of individuals scout different territories within the count circle, and at the end of the day report their species and numbers to a compiler.

The Christmas Bird Count has a long history in Richmond County. The first Richmond County Christmas Bird Count was conducted in 1908 by Dr. Frank Chapin. In fact, with the exception of 1909, 1911, and 1915, it has been successfully run every year, with increasing numbers of participants. For the 2020 Christmas Bird Count, the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to adopt new rules and procedures for a safe survey, including socially distancing and wearing a mask. Despite this, the 2020 Christmas Bird Count was successfully held for Staten Island on Saturday December 19th with 127 total species being recorded and a total of 24,185 individual birds. Highlights included a King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) and a LeConte’s Sparrow (Ammospiza leconteii) – both second records for Richmond County in general.  

Snow Bunting at Freshkills Park | Photo: Shannon Curley

The Freshkills Park territory had several highlights, including Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus), Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus), and Seaside Sparrow (Ammospiza maritimus), the latter of which was only the 7th record of this species for the count since 1908. At Freshkills, we recorded 63 species and 2,789 total individual birds. Despite some icy conditions, the total number of species was consistent with previous years.

For more information on the history of the Christmas Bird Count, as well as how to participate in the survey, please visit the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count website. To learn more about the ongoing research at Freshkills Park visit our Scientific Research page.


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