Please open your field guide. If you can identify and count the birds in the photograph at the head of this page, congratulations! You are well-qualified to join a field party. The leaders need all the help they can get and extra pairs of keen eyes and ears are welcome.
Most of our field parties go out for several hours in all conditions. Reasonable physical fitness is expected. Wear clothes for the weather and winter boots, bring a field guide, food and drink, and your binoculars. Contact your town count coordinator. You will be assigned to a team led by a veteran CBCer. You do not need to keep a checklist.
If you leave your field party and count your feeder birds at home you must submit a separate feeder watchers’ checklist. You may wear two hats, but not at the same time.
The participation fee has been abolished, but you are urged to make a donation in the amount of your choice to help fund The Christmas Bird Count here. Your financial support is still crucial. The CBC edition of American Birds will be published online.
The CBC is not a single day; think of it as a week-long event. The three days previous to and following Count Day are called the Count Week (CW) period. Note the time, date, and location of any uncommon or elusive bird species you see or hear and please report your finds to your town coordinator. Think about a Common Raven or Turkey Vulture that (quite inconveniently) might not show up on Count Day. Scan flocks of geese on athletic fields and agricultural land for rarities and check the last pockets of open water for ducks.
These sightings are “incidental.” There is no need to form field teams. You may be out birding alone or with a friend or driving about on errands. Numbers do not matter, just the species.
Don’t forget our owls. The time frame for nocturnal birding begins in the pre-dawn hours after midnight and ends the midnight following. If you are leading a party or going out alone, please communicate with your coordinator so there is no double-coverage and fill out a separate checklist for the nocturnal birds. You must report miles and elapsed time data as well as the tally for each species seen or heard. Navigate to this page for details about collecting time and distance data.
Rare Bird Sightings
If you locate a rarity you must complete the rare bird form, available here. Your sightings will be reviewed by our rarefied Rare Bird Committee and the NAS. Whether your sighting makes it or breaks it depends on your meticulous and thorough account of the details. If you carry a camera please send us a photograph. If the bird in question is calling you can record the sounds with your smartphone and submit the file to your compiler.
Spishing and Audio Playback
Using audio and vocal sounds to attract birds is permitted. The Compilers’ Manual strongly urges field volunteers to stick to the same census methods they have used in previous counts. The upshot is, if you have used audio playback or vocal imitations please continue to do so; if you have not used these tools do not use them going forward. Playback and sound effects will improve your detection rate for many bird species and you should not change your personal field “protocol” from one year to the next.