Christmas Bird Count

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The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a program of National Audubon, a separate 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Seattle Audubon administers our local CBC on behalf of National Audubon. 

CBC 2021 is Scheduled for Sunday, December 19

After doing a Feeder Watch-only count in 2020, the Seattle Christmas Bird Count will be back for 2021*! Field Count teams will remain smaller than usual, with minimum numbers needed to complete the count in each sub-area. Participants in the Field Count must be ready to count for the whole day and have Intermediate to Advanced Bird ID skills. All beginner birders and families are encouraged to join Feeder Watch, which takes place on the same day. Registrations for both Field Counters and Feeder Watchers will open on November 1. Registrations for the Field Count will close on December 12, and registrations for Feeder Watch will close on December 15. (No exceptions.)

*CBC will take place only if local covid regulations allow it. We will make the final decision on whether CBC will happen on November 15. (Cancellation of CBC 2021 may still be possible if covid regulations change after November 15.)

COVID Protocols: For those participating in the Field Count, we will ask everyone to follow the COVID protocols in place for Field Trips. (Summary: Masks worn at all times, carpooling permitted only for those who are fully vaccinated and masked.)

Post-count Gathering: We will not be gathering in-person this year, but after the count you are encouraged to join other Seattle CBC participants at the Virtual CBC Soup Potluck to share soup recipes, play some games, and hear the preliminary count results. The event will take place from the comfort of your own home from 5:30-7 p.m. Zoom invites will be sent to all registered participants.

Link to Register Coming Soon!

What is the Christmas Bird Count?

Established in 1900, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is the longest running community science survey in North America. Seattle Audubon has coordinated the Seattle CBC for over 90 years! Approximately 250 volunteers survey the count circle (15 miles in diameter) centered in downtown Seattle, to identify and count anything with feathers and a pulse. There are 14 sections within the Seattle count circle, each being covered by one or multiple teams of volunteer surveyors. All results are tallied by a count compiler and submitted to the National Audubon Society. The valuable data gathered on wintering bird populations will support important research like the 3 Billion Birds report and other scientific publications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to be an expert birdwatcher to participate?

Update for CBC 2021: This year’s CBC field count teams will be limited to the minimum team members required to complete a scientifically valid count. As such, we will have to limit participation in the FIELD COUNT to birders with intermeditate and advanced skill only.

All beginniner birders and those with families are encouraged to join Feeder Watch. We thank you for your understanding and hope to open the field count up to more participants in 2022.

When is it?

This year the count will take place on Sunday, December 19, 2021. Count teams meet at around dawn (with some teams listening for owls in the pre-dawn darkness) and continue counting until late afternoon. On the evening of the count, CBC participants converge to compile the initial species list for the day at a Virtual CBC Gathering. There is always a surprise sighting or two! 

WANTED: Feeder Watchers

Don’t want to, or can’t leave the warmth of your home? Only have a spare 30 minutes available? Have a young family that wants to take part? If your home is within the Seattle CBC circle you can still take part in the count by reporting the birds that visit your bird feeders and yard. Simply choose “CBC Feeder Watch Participant” when you register for the count. Check out this map to ensure your feeder and yard are within the Seattle CBC circle boundary.

Find instructions and tips on how to conduct your Feeder Watch, in this useful guide. Use this datasheet to record your bird observations. Follow this link for a full expanded species list.

How do I submit my Feeder Watch data?

Please submit your data using the online datasheet found hereIf you have any questions, please reach out to the CBC Coordinator. Completed paper datasheets can also be turned in at the CBC Potluck, or hand delivered to the Nature Shop. To ensure inclusion with the rest of the CBC data, please submit your data to Seattle Audubon as soon as possible after the count (ideally within 3 days).

Can I bring my children?

Though we would love to have participants of all ages on the CBC, the field count option is not the best fit for children. For this reason, we encourage all families with children to register for the Feeder Watch option. This option is a valuable source of data that is otherwise missed by the Field Counters, and adds to the overall data set collected on the day. 

How much does it cost?

The CBC is a free program. However, Seattle Audubon kindly asks you to donate the traditional $5.00 fee to Seattle Audubon to fund work like our community science projects. Simply add your donation during the CBC registration process or click the “Donate” button on the top left of this page.

What should I bring on the day of the count?

Dress for the weather! Surveyors will go out, rain, shine or snow. Layers are strongly encouraged with a waterproof jacket and/or pants. Warm hats, socks and gloves are a must. Some areas require more walking, others more driving, so please wear appropriate footwear. Fluids, snacks and a sack lunch are also important. Binoculars will not be provided, so please bring your own.

CBC Potluck

Update for 2021: We will NOT be holding an in-person gathering this year. We encourage all participants to join the Virtual CBC Gathering on the evening of the 19th. Zoom invites will be sent to all registered participants. 

Once the count is complete, volunteers can gather with other leaders and counters at the CBC Potluck to listen to the preliminary species results over a bowl of warm soup. The Potluck will take place at the Wedgwood Presbyterian Church in NE Seattle (MAP).

Wedgwood Presbyterian Church
8008 35th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115

Doors open at 4pm if you’d like to warm up a little early; the potlucks end at 7pm. Potluck attendees are asked to RSVP during their CBC registration and indicate whether they will bring a dessert, salad or willing to help set-up or clean-down after the potluck.

Other Resources

Seattle Christmas Bird Count Final Tally Sheet lists all the bird species that are potentially encountered during the Seattle CBC – updated Oct 2017

Other Christmas Bird Counts in Washington State (approx. 36 total taking place annually all over the state, Dec 14 through Jan 5)

National Audubon Christmas Bird Count (learn more about the history and run a custom analysis of the CBC data!)

View online map showing all 2,400+ count circles

Past Media Coverage

Seattle Audubon’s Christmas bird count draws fans of all levels, from newbies to sighting superstarsChristy Karras, Seattle Times Magazine, February 15, 2019

Nature is still everywhere: Bird counters find wonder amid Seattle’s towers, dog parks and playfieldsLynda Mapes, Seattle Times, January 1, 2018

People, birds meet for annual Christmas tally” Maddy Lauria, Seattle Times, December 30, 2017

Tips for Beginner Bird WatchersCaroline Craighead, Seattle Magazine, December 2017

Tallying winter’s wings: cormorants, crows, mallards and moreAlan Berner, Seattle Times, January 2, 2017.

Seattle Audubon to hold Christmas Bird CountMadeline Mckenzie, Seattle Times, December 18, 2016.

Pikes/Pines – Capitol Hill’s Christmas Bird CountBrendan McGarry, Capitol Hill Times, December 21, 2014.

Christmas bird countColin Ditz, Seattle Times, December 28, 2013.

Seattle bird lovers stroll out for Christmas countEmily Heffter, Seattle Times, December 31, 2011.

The Nerd Issue: Seattle’s Beloved Geek Festivals” (Outdoor section) Anna Samuels, Seattle Magaazine, February 2011

Christmas Bird Count is bird-watchers’ annual delightLynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times, December 21, 2009.

Birders scan treetops and underbrush in an annual count that began 108 years agoCraig Welch, Seattle Times, December 30, 2007.

Search Seattle Times archives for “Christmas Bird Count

Two Mourning Doves: The Christmas Bird CountWeekday with Steve Scher on KUOW. Aired December 26, 2007 at 10am.

Crunch of boot, flash of feather, call of “PISHHHHH” at annual bird countNancy Bartley, Seattle Times, December 31, 2006

Questions? Media inquiries?

Count Contact: Hanae Bettencourt, Education Manager,  hanaeb@seattleaudubon.org
Media Contact: Wendy Walker, Community Engagement Manager, 206-523-8243 x110 or wendyw@seattleaudubon.org