History of the Christmas Bird Count Prior to the turn of the century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”: They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won.
Conservation was in its beginning stages around the turn of the 20th century, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition-a “Christmas Bird Census”-that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them.
So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Frank M. Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. The locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California with most counts in or near the population centers of northeastern North America. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined.
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The First Christmas Bird Count was on December 25, 1900. About 18,500 individual birds and 27 total participants Cumulative bird species list: 89 species total.
Counts conducted in first Christmas Bird Count: 25 total counts
- Scotch Lake, York County, New Brunswick
- Toronto, Ontario
- Keene, New Hampshire
- Belmont and Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Arnold Arboretum, Boston, Massachusetts
- Winchester, Massachusetts
- Bristol, Connecticut
- Norwalk, Connecticut
- Auburn to Owasco Lake, New York
- Central Park, New York City, New York
- Englewood, New Jersey
- Moorestown, New Jersey
- Newfield, New Jersey
- Baldwin, Louisiana
- Pueblo, Colorado
- Germantown, Pennsylvania
- Wyncote, Pennsylvania
- Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Oberlin, Ohio
- Glen Elyn, Illinois
- North Freedom, Sauk County, Wisconsin
- La Grange, Missouri
- Pacific Grove, Monterey County, California
- Neshaminy Creek & Upper Delaware River, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Delaware River Meadows, Tinicum Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania