For the Birds: Christmas Count Under Way

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The annual Christmas Bird Count continues across America this week. The 113th for-the-birds annual census attracts thousands of volunteers nationwide to the holiday tradition. The count continues through Saturday, Jan. 5, and for the first time, it's free (participant used to pay $5 to cover mailing and processing, but because the count is handled digitally now, participants can register online for free).

Boise held its bird count on Dec. 15. Counts have also already occured in Coeur d'Alene, Garden Valley, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Nampa (which was held Saturday), Pocatello and Twin Falls, but counts are still slated for Bonners Ferry, Bruneau, Buhl, Spirit Lake and Trapper Creek.

The Audubon Society and other organizations use data collected in the nation's longest running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations and to help guide conservation action.

The project started more than a century ago to counter the tradition of shooting birds around Christmastime. It has evolved into the longest running citizen science project in the world. Volunteers are asked to note all the birds they see in a specified 15-mile-wide radius and submit the data to Audubon.

Last year's Christmas Bird Count in Boise found an abundance of canadian geese, mallards, ring-necked ducks, goldeneyes, quail, kestrels, pigeons, doves, crows, magpies, flickers, chickadees, starlings, robins, waxwings, sparrows, juncos and finches.

Fifty-one participants watched for 97 hours during the 2011 Boise count, reporting more than 80 separate species.

Boise citizens have participated in each of the bird count's 113 annual events.