Bird Counting

The history and purpose of bird counting.

Christmas Bird Count 2018

Pictured: On Saturday, December 15th, 2018, members participated in a bird count centered in Corning, NY.

On Tuesday, January 1, 2019, we met again for the Elmira Christmas Bird Count.

Birders of all skill levels were invited to take part in this fun tradition.

Last year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count mobilized over 72,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,500 locations across the Western Hemisphere. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count utilizes the power of volunteers to track the health of bird populations at a scale that scientists could never accomplish alone. Data compiled in New York will record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area, contributing to a vast community science network that continues a tradition stretching back more than 100 years.

"The Christmas Bird Count is a rewarding way to get involved with Audubon in your community," said Ana Paula Tavares, executive director of Audubon New York. "With over 50 counts in New York State alone, we hope to see record numbers of volunteers participate in support of their local birds."

To date over 300 peer-reviewed articles have resulted from analysis done with Christmas Bird Count data. Bird-related community science efforts are also critical to understanding how birds are responding to a changing climate. This documentation is what enabled Audubon scientists to discover that 314 species of North American birds are threatened by global warming as reported in Audubon's groundbreaking Birds and Climate Change Study. The tradition of counting birds combined with modern technology and mapping is enabling researchers to make discoveries that were not possible in earlier decades.

Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun, nationwide community science project, which provides ornithologists with a crucial snapshot of our native bird populations during the winter months. Each individual count is performed in a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles. At least ten volunteers, including a compiler to coordinate the process, count in each circle. The volunteers break up into small parties and follow assigned routes, which change little from year to year, counting every bird they see. In most count circles, some people also watch feeders instead of following routes.

To sign up for a count, please contact the Chemung Valley Audubon by email at or visit Audubon.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore – which evolved into Audubon magazine – suggested an alternative to the holiday "side hunt," in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds. 118 years of counting birds is a long time, but the program somehow brings out the best in people, and they stay involved for the long run. And so the tradition continues.

Christmas Bird Count 2018

The first Christmas Bird Count was conducted in 1900, the suggestion of Frank Chapman, founder of Audubon magazine. He proposed that instead of killing birds on Christmas, as was tradition, we instead count them. The first count was conducted in 25 places in North America, with results reported by 27 observers. Today, tens of thousands of observers report their counts in thousands of locations. The data is used to further our conservation and restoration efforts. We conduct the Corning Christmas Bird Counts in Elmira and Corning in December and January. Listed below are the species that were sighted. For a description of each of these birds, please visit the Audubon Field Guide.

Corning Christmas Bird Count Results

Compare to Previous Years: 2016 | 2017

American Black Ducks - 17 American Black Duck x Mallard - 1 American Crow - 7302
American Goldfinch - 158 American Kestrel - 1 American Robin - 2
American Tree Sparrow - 54 Bald Eagle - 15 Belted Kingfisher - 5
Black-Capped Chickadee - 414 Blue Jay - 452 Brown Creeper - 2
Bufflehead - 5 Canvasback - 2 Canada Goose - 1604
Carolina Wren - 30 Cedar Waxwing - 92 Common Merganser - 45
Common Ravens - 13 Cooper's Hawk - 1 Dark-Eyed Juncos - 138
Downy Woodpeckers - 44 Eastern Bluebirds - 15 Eastern Screech-Owl - 1
European Starlings - 1146 Golden-Crowned Kinglet - 9 Gray Catbird - CW
Great Blue Heron - 2 Great Horned Owl - 1 Hairy Woodpeckers - 16
Herring Gulls - 13 Hooded Mergansers - 6 House Finches - 55
House Sparrows - 110 Lesser Scaup - 2 Mallards - 129
Merlin - 1 Mourning Doves - 158 Northern Cardinals - 60
Northern Flickers - 2 Northern Mockingbirds - 1 Peregrine Falcon - CW
Pileated Woodpecker - 8 Pine Siskin - 10 Red-Bellied Woodpeckers - 14
Red-Breasted Nuthatch - 4 Redhead - 1 Red-Tailed Hawks - 35
Ring-Billed Gulls - 33 Rock Pigeons - 1109 Rough-legged Hawk - 1
Song Sparrows - 19 Tufted Titmouse - 67 White-Breasted Nuthatch - 88
White-Throated Sparrows - 11 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 1  

Elmira Christmas Bird Count Results

Compare to Previous Years: 2016 | 2017

American Black Ducks - 11 American Crows - 1687 American Goldfinches - 116
American Kestrels - 5 American Tree Sparrows - 14 Bald Eagles - 12
Belted Kingfishers - 3 Black-Capped Chickadees - 462 Blue Jays - 226
Brown Creeper - 6 Bufflehead - 4 Canada Geese - 2233
Canvasback - 3 Carolina Wren - 10 Cedar Waxwings - 57
Common Mergansers - 75 Common Ravens - 37 Cooper's Hawk - 9
Dark-Eyed Juncos - 132 Downy Woodpeckers - 64 Eastern Bluebirds - 40
Eastern Screech-Owls - 2 European Starlings - 2965 Fish Crows - 3
Golden-Crowned Kinglets - 9 Great Blue Heron - 3 Great Horned Owl - 2
Greater Scaup - 1 Hairy Woodpeckers - 13 Herring Gulls - 31
House Finches - 175 House Sparrows - 153 Mallards - 431
Merlin - 2 Mourning Doves - 336 Northern Cardinals - 88
Northern Flicker - 2 Northern Harrier - 1 Northern Mockingbird - 9
Pileated Woodpecker - 2 Pine Siskin - 8 Purple Finch - 2
Red-Bellied Woodpeckers - 22 Red-Breasted Nuthatch - 11 Redhead - 1
Red-Tailed Hawks - 64 Ring-Billed Gulls - 941 Rock Pigeons - 1257
Rough-Legged Hawks - 4 Ruffed Grouse - 6 Sharp-Shinned Hawk - 4
Song Sparrows - 8 Tufted Titmice - 55 White-Breasted Nuthatch - 67
White-Crowned Sparrow - 1 White-Throated Sparrows - 27 Wild Turkeys - 162
Wood Ducks - 1    

Waterfowl & Bald Eagle Count

Every year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation asks volunteers to help find and count ducks and geese throughout the state. It's a great opportunity to get out and see some of the birds that share our region during the winter months. Volunteers are paired with an experienced bird watcher, so no experience is required!

Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an international event created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, designed to capture a snapshot of where all the birds are for a single weekend in the late winter. We use the event to highlight the diversity of really amazing birds in the southern Finger Lakes region, and we invite you to explore your feathered neighbors, either in your backyard, your favorite park, or wherever you happen to be (it doesn't need to be a backyard!).

The count runs over four days, so you can count every day from the same location, or go out and explore new areas throughout the four-day count period. For more information about the count, visit Great Backyard Bird Count. If you're interested in meeting up for a bird walk, let us know and we'll see if you can put together a program. Finally, stop by our local Wild Birds Unlimited store for more information about birds and bird counting.

In 2017, Chemung Valley Audubon teamed up with Elmira’s Tanglewood Nature Center to bring families and birds together for fun and science. CVAS’s Bill Ostrander led 40 emerging citizen-scientists along the Tanglewood trails on Saturday morning, February 18, helping them fine-tune their identification skills and tally birds for the 20th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count.

The worldwide event, which is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, along with international partners, provides a snapshot of bird distribution over a four-day weekend each February. Participants submit checklists of their bird sightings to an ever-growing database, and scientists use this data to study changes in bird populations. You can see the CVAS Tanglewood checklist here.

This year, more than 22 million birds were counted in over 100 countries. Visit this website to learn all about the Great Backyard Bird Count, see fabulous photos and get your start on counting birds for science. You should also read the New York Times' article, It's for the Birds (and Us, Too) by Margaret Renkl.

Spring Census Bird Count

More information about the Spring Census Bird Count will be released as the event nears.

Montezuma Muckrace

CVAS once again fielded an enthusiastic team for the 2018 Montezuma Muckrace, a team-birding fundraising event started in 1997 that continues to challenge birders in the Montezuma Wetlands Complex. This 22nd Muckrace featured a record 141 birders on 30 teams competing for 24 hours to identify the maximum number of species in the complex. The funds raised support bird conservation, wildlife habitat improvement and public access in the Wetlands Complex.

The CVAS team recorded 104 species on their way to a 4th place finish in the event's Recreational division.

Want to join a CVAS team in 2019? Reserve the 13th and 14th of September 2019, and contact the team via email or by using our contact form.