Birders across Oklahoma will begin to participate in the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Counts next weekend.
This is the 113th year for Christmas Bird Counts, which are organized by Audubon Societies and other birding groups across the country.
Teams of birders go searching in assigned areas to count and identify birds to help gauge population trends.
“There is just a long tradition of it,” said Mark Howery, wildlife diversity biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“For a bunch of people, this is their big event of the year in terms of birding. You would see more birds in the spring, but it got started as kind of a holiday thing.”
Howery is a member of the Cleveland County Audubon Society and has been coordinating Norman's Christmas Bird Count since 1982.
Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa have the oldest Christmas Bird Counts in Oklahoma, each starting more than 80 years ago.
“A single Christmas bird count doesn't seem that significant, but when you start stringing together 70 or 80 years of them, you can start picking up on trends,” Howery said.
There are 16 sites in the state where Christmas Bird Counts are held each year, Howery said. Among them are the Red Slough in far southeastern Oklahoma, where 120 species of birds were documented on last year's count, the most in Oklahoma.
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur is holding its first Christmas Bird Count this year.
Oklahoma City, Tulsa and the Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge also produce numerous sightings on annual Christmas Bird Counts.
“Over time, a sense of competition kind of builds,” Howery said. “You have competition between people within a Christmas Bird Count and competition between the different Christmas Bird Counts.”
CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNTS
To view a complete list of Christmas Bird Counts scheduled in Oklahoma and contact information for each, visit www.okbirds.org.
The first Christmas Bird Counts in Oklahoma will be held Saturday (Dec. 15) in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Spavinaw, Stillwater and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Christmas Bird Counts are scheduled through Jan. 5 at various locations around the state.