FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 14, 2016
ANCHORAGE, AK – From Ketchikan to Nome, every year Alaskans bundle up to celebrate the holiday season by braving the elements for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Alaskans are creative about transportation, ranging from driving and walking to cross-country skis, dog sled, kayak, and fat-tire bike. If you are interested in attending a local count, please visit the Christmas Bird Count Calendar on the Audubon Alaska website for dates and local contact details or view a map of Alaska counts.
First organized in the Lower 48 and eastern Canada with just 27 birdwatchers in 1900, this season marks the 117th Christmas Bird Count. In Alaska, volunteers have carried out Christmas Bird Counts since before statehood, with the first counts in 1941 in Anchorage and Mountain Village.
Groups of volunteers select a day between December 14 and January 5 to conduct a count. Tok will lead the state this year, doing their count the first day possible on December 14. Eagle Community is next on December 15. With the holidays falling on the weekends this season, the majority of groups will hold their counts on December 17 (see below of a list of count dates).
Volunteers have 24 hours to record as many birds as possible within a 15-mile diameter circle. It’s important to stay within the circle so that data can be compared between years. There are Christmas Bird Counts in all 50 states, in all Canadian provinces, several Central and South American countries, and several Pacific and Caribbean islands. Last year there were 37 counts held across Alaska. This year there is a new count starting in Hoonah in Southeast. Many counts end with a social gathering to tally lists and crow over the best birds.
The count is offered as a free event. Interested volunteers can find a count near them and contact the compiler through the count calendar on Audubon Alaska’s website.
“The Christmas Bird Count is a great way for volunteers of any age, from kids to grandparents, to participate together in one of the longest running citizen-science projects in the world,” said Nils Warnock, Executive Director of Audubon Alaska. “With more than a century of data nationwide and 70 years in Alaska, this is a powerful tool that helps scientists look for changes in Alaska’s bird populations and ranges.”
There are more birds, and bird watchers, than you might expect in Alaska in the winter. On 37 counts across the state last year for the 116th count, a record 1,157 observers (810 in the field plus 347 feeder counters) found 149 species. Even with all the extra eyes, the total number of individual birds was at a 5-year average low of 123,658 individuals. Kodiak’s Narrow Cape–Kalsin Bay count had the highest number of species for the state at 74. Anchorage, with 179 observers, had the highest number of participants in the state, setting a new state record. It also once again earned Anchorage a spot on the elite list, along with Fairbanks’ 112 observers, of Christmas Bird Counts in the hemisphere with 100 or more participants. Anchorage observers counted 12,311 individual birds, the highest number for the state.
Alaska Christmas Bird Counts welcome volunteers of all skill levels. For more Christmas Bird Count dates and contact information in Alaska communities, see the Christmas Bird Count Calendar at www.AudubonAlaska.org, or contact Beth Grassi at (907) 276-7034 or email@example.com.
- Chilkat, To be determined
- Criag-Klawock, To be determined
- Glacier Bay (Gustavus), December 17
- Haines, December 17
- Hoonah, December 29
- Juneau, December 18
- Ketchikan, December 17
- Mitkof Island (Petersburg)
- Sitka, January 1
- Skagway, December 17
- Tenakee Springs, December 18
- Thorne Bay, To be determined
- Wrangell Island, December 17
- Anchorage, December 17
- Cordova, December 17
- Eagle River, January 1
- Homer, December 17
- Kodiak, December 17
- Matanuska Valley, December 18
- Narrow Cape-Kalsin Bay (Kodiak), December 31
- Seward, December 17
- Soldotna, December 17
- Valdez, To be announced
Northern and Western
- Bethel, December 17
- Dillingham, December 17
- Galena, December 22
- Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, January 4
- King Salmon-Naknek, December 17
- Nome, December 17
- Shageluk, December 31
- Unalaska, December 18
- Cantwell, December 18
- Copper Center, December 27
- Delta Junction, December 17
- Denali National Park, December 17
- Eagle Community, December 15
- Fairbanks, December 31
- Gakona, December 31
- Kenny Lake, December 17
- Tok, December 14
Recap of last year’s 116th Christmas Bird Count:
Unalaska counters set a new high count of 121 Least Auklets, a small seabird. Homer reached a new high count in Alaska with six Sharp-shinned Hawks, a small bird of prey, and Anchorage had a high count of five Merlins, a species of falcon.
The widely reported die-off of Common Murres overlapped with the Christmas Bird Count last year, with nearly all the counts on or close to the coast from Southeast through the Aleutians reporting dead or dying murres. There were even two murres reported on the Trapper Creek-Talkeetna count along with murres seen during count week (three days before and three days after the count day) as far north as Cantwell and Fairbanks.
In northern and western Alaska, Unalaska saw 49 species, the most for Southwestern Alaska counts, including the first Golden-crowned Kinglet for this area of Alaska. Izembek National Wildlife Refuge reported the highest number of individual birds at 1,967, which included a high count of twelve Surf Scoters, a type of seaduck. Dillingham reported the first Red Crossbills for this area, a high count of 256 Pine Grosbeaks, and the most observers (23). Bethel boasted the local area’s high count of 1,247 Common Ravens.
In the Interior, Fairbanks reported the high of 30 species. Fairbanks also reported a very stubborn Lincoln’s Sparrow that apparently decided to stay the winter.
Within Southcentral Alaska, Homer found a Red-breasted Sapsucker woodpecker, a new bird for the area. Seward won the title for unusual birds in the area with an Orange-crowned Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler, although Kodiak turned up a Ruddy Turnstone, a type of shorebird. Anchorage set the area high count with two Northern Saw-whet Owls and 26 Hoary Redpolls. Cordova found a high count for the area with 382 Trumpeter Swans. On Kodiak Island, the Narrow Cape-Kalsin Bay count tallied a high count for the area of 1,083 White-winged Scoters.
In Southeast Alaska, Sitka tried to give Kodiak a run for the title of most species, reaching 68. Glacier Bay volunteers spotted 13,314 individual birds, the highest number in Southeast. Two unusual species for Alaska were a Spotted Towhee in Juneau and a Purple Finch in Wrangell. Tenakee Springs had the distinction of setting a new Southeast high count with seven Eurasian Wigeon ducks.
- Summary of results of last year’s 115th Christmas Bird Count
- Interactive Map of Christmas Bird Counts
Now in its second century, Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in conservation. www.audubon.org