Bird Counting

The history and purpose of bird counting.

Christmas Bird Count

Members Conducting a Bird CountDecember 15th, 2018 | Members count birds in Corning, NY. Each year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count mobilizes 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."

Member with Binoculars 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 2020

Members Birdwatching

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.

This year, driving conditions were good.  Moving water was generally open and still water was generally frozen.

Corning Christmas Bird Count Results

Compare to Previous Years: 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019

American Black Ducks - 1 American Crow - 338 American Goldfinch - 96
American Kestrel - 2 American Robin - 2 American Tree Sparrow - 22
Bald Eagle - 18 Belted Kingfisher -2 Black-Capped Chickadee - 366
Blue Jay - 231 Brown Creeper - 4 Canada Goose - 1127
Carolina Wren - 11 Cedar Waxwing - 5 Common Merganser - 37
Common Ravens - 20 Cooper's Hawk - 4 Dark-Eyed Juncos - 115
Downy Woodpeckers - 45 Eastern Bluebirds - 57 Eastern Screech-Owl - 3
European Starlings - 954 Evening Grosbeak - 2 Fish Crow - 1
Gadwall - 2 Golden-Crowned Kinglet - 1 Hairy Woodpeckers - 17
Herring Gulls - 1 Hooded Mergansers - 12 House Finches - 26
House Sparrows - 74 Mallards - 346 Mourning Doves - 137
Northern Cardinals - 45 Northern Flickers - 1 Northern Harrier - 1
Northern Mockingbirds - 1 Pileated Woodpecker - 10 Red Crossbill - 12
Red-Bellied Woodpeckers - 10 Red-Breasted Nuthatch - 8 Red-Tailed Hawks - 32
Ring-Billed Gulls - 44 Rock Pigeons - 591 Rough-Legged Hawks - 3
Sharp-Shinned Hawks - 2 Song Sparrows - 6 Tufted Titmouse - 69
White-Breasted Nuthatch - 74 White-Throated Sparrow - 2  

Elmira Christmas Bird Count Results

Compare to Previous Years: 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019

American Black Ducks - 10 American Crows - 783 American Goldfinches - 151
American Kestrels - 4 American Robin - 2 American Tree Sparrows - 72
Bald Eagles - 7 Barred Owl - 1 Belted Kingfishers - 4
Black-Capped Chickadees - 414 Blue Jays - 219 Brown Creepers - 8
Canada Geese - 1878 Carolina Wren -26 Cedar Waxwings - 22
Common Mergansers - 65 Common Ravens - 20 Common Redpolls - 11
Cooper's Hawks - 5 Crow sp. - 1 Dark-Eyed Juncos - 325
Downy Woodpeckers - 70 Eastern Bluebirds - 72 Eastern Screech-Owls - 2
European Starlings - 965 Fish Crows - 2 Golden-Crowned Kinglet - 1
Great Black-backed Gulls - 8 Great Blue Herons - 2 Great Horned Owls - 4
Green-winged Teal - 1 Hairy Woodpeckers - 30 Herring Gulls - 58
House Finches - 60 House Sparrows - 118 Mallards - 392
Merlins - 4 Mourning Doves - 470 Northern Cardinals - 116
Northern Harrier - 1 Northern Mockingbirds - 8 Peregrine Falcon - 1
Pileated Woodpeckers - 7 Purple Finch - 1 Red-Bellied Woodpeckers - 21
Red-Breasted Nuthatches - 20 Red Crossbills - 5 Red-Tailed Hawks - 50
Ring-Billed Gulls - 2064 Ring-necked Duck - 1 Rock Pigeons - 1018
Ruffed Grouse - 1 Sharp-Shinned Hawk -5 Song Sparrows - 17
Tufted Titmice - 74 White-Breasted Nuthatch - 70 White-Throated Sparrows - 20
Wild Turkeys - 230    

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

2021 Results

Caroline WrenCarolina Wren © Gary Mueller/Macaulay LibraryFrom

In an unprecedented year, the Great Backyard Bird Counts reminds us that thousands of people around the world are united in their enjoyment of watching birds. Turnout this year was incredible, albeit with many people understandably staying closer to home. Perhaps this gave us an even deeper appreciation for the beauty of the natural world in and around our homes and communities? Our deepest gratitude to each and every bird enthusiast around the world who shared Merlin Bird ID(s), eBird checklist(s), or photos, sounds, or videos from February 12th–15th, 2021. We broke records once again and we could not have done it without you! In a snapshot... [continue reading]

About the GBBC

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

Birdwatchers from across New York and beyond joined together to participate in the 23rd annual Montezuma Muckrace on Friday, September 15th, and Saturday, September 16th, 2019. The Muckrace, organized by the Friends of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, is a 24-hour bird watching competition that raises funds for bird conservation and environmental education programs in this birding hotspot.

The results are in! A total of 34 teams and 155 participants birded from 7pm to 7pm, and a total of 173 species were seen, heard, or photographed. Highlights included sightings of an American Golden Plover and a Laughing Gull (a Muckrace first!). The winning competitive team was from Rochester with 199 species. The winning recreational team had 130.

The CVAS “Tanagers” team had a successful event. Competing in the recreation category, our team identified 94 species. Most of the participants agreed that it was an uncommonly slow day this year. Shorebird habitat was in short supply and for some reason (perhaps the recent passage of a cold front) forest birds, warblers in particular, were scarce. The weather was beautiful, mosquitoes weren't too bad, and the team had a great day of birding. A highlight was seeing a white pelican in amongst all the great white egrets and the two sandhill cranes.