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. As such, National Audubon will make the call regarding whether or not the 2020 CBC will happen in light of COVID-19 impacts. We will be in touch with Seattle Audubon CBC leaders and volunteers once National Audubon has communicated if and how this year’s CBC will happen.

Seattle Christmas Bird Count 2019: THANK YOU

The 2019 Seattle Christmas Bird count was held on an overcast but rain-free day – much different than the year before when it was windy and rainy. Overall, that helped us find the birds – though the species total wasn’t high, the total number of birds was. The count day total of 121 species was the third lowest in the past decade, and the three count week species are added in, for a total of 124, we still came up with our second lowest total in the past decade, about 4 off the normal total for the decade. That said, the total number of birds seen was high, with over 50,000 birds seen – only the second time this decade we reached that level. All told, we tallied about 2000 birds more than our decade average. A HUGE thank you to all who took partand made the 2019 Seattle CBC such a great event for birds and nature.

View the full results and species list prepared by Seattle CBC compiler Matt Bartels.

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. These data are incorporated into very important research, like the State Of The Birds report and the National Audubon Society’s Climate Change Report: Survival By Degrees.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to be an expert birdwatcher to participate?

Experienced birders, beginner twitchers, neighborhood residents, and newcomers are all welcome to take part in the count. It’s a great way to be introduced to birdwatching. New birdwatchers will be surprised to learn that over 120 species are regularly tallied during the all-day event in Seattle. Total novice? Don’t worry, all volunteers are assigned to teams led by experienced birdwatchers who are familiar with their areas and the avian species that reside there. However, if a full-day out in December weather is not appealing, perhaps consider the Seattle CBC Feeder Watch.

When is it?

The Seattle CBC takes place on the last Saturday in December. This year the count will take place on December 26, 2020. 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 and enjoy a warm soup potluck. There is always a surprise sighting or two! Volunteers are always needed for potluck set-up and clean-up duties. Please contact the Community Engagement Manager to volunteer.

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, Seattle Audubon hosts a Youth and Family CBC event which will take place on Saturday, December 12, at Discovery Park, from 10am-noon. The count will be led by expert birders and offers an opportunity for children to participate in community science! Registration link for the Youth and Family CBC will open on November 1st.

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

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?

Contact: Toby Ross, Senior Science Manager at 206-523-8243 x102 or email.