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The annual Christmas bird count is underway in Kentucky

Group of birdwatchers in the woods
Erica Peterson

Each December, local birding groups flock together to collect field data that tells us about trends in bird populations. Last year, birders even spotted several species for the first time in Kentucky.

Across Kentucky, more than three dozen local birding groups are taking an annual census of their feathered friends as part of the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

In 2022, birders spotted 344,750 individual birds across 138 species. Some species were spotted for the first-time ever in Kentucky including the Pink-footed Goose and the American Oystercatcher. The most commonly sighted species was the European Starling, making up about 30% of all the birds spotted.

The groups designate a 15-mile diameter zone in their area and then send teams of volunteers out to cover as much ground as possible in a day. Some teams might be assigned a walk in a park while others could drive slowly down rural roads.

Along the way, they’ll document the numbers and types of each bird they spot and lots of other data like location and birding experience of the team members. All the data helps birders identify trends in bird populations as habitats across the country change.

“Birders love their numbers,” Mark Tower, birder and volunteer data compiler in Lexington, said. “They love to keep lists, they love to compare one list to another, and I mean, heck that’s kind of the point of all this right?”

Once the day is done, volunteers collect the data and send it to statewide compiler James Wheat. Wheat includes Kentucky’s data in the Audubon Society’s national dataset and also publishes results online with the Kentucky Ornithological Society.

While many of the Kentucky counts happen on the weekends before Christmas, some are still coming up and welcoming volunteers. Chapters ask that volunteers contact count organizers before attending.

Justin is LPM's Data Reporter. Email Justin at jhicks@lpm.org.

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