Bird enthusiasts collect population data for research

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Chistmas Bird Count

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Bird enthusiasts across the western hemisphere are looking toward the sky for the 119th ‘Christmas Bird Census’.

Conservation was in its beginning stages in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition—a “Christmas Bird Census” that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.

“Birds were hunted for fashion, some commercial foods. They were not regulated in any way, and the populations were crashing,” according to John Buck, a migratory birds biologist for the State of Vermont.

Buck says this led to the protection of these animals, in the form of ‘The Migratory Birds Treaty Act of 1918‘.

Data shows, according to Buck, many species of birds continue to decline. But, this decline isn’t just happening in our region. “This long-term decline in the bird population, in general, in North America.”

Between Buck and Steven Hagenbuch, they say it comes down to habitat management.

“You know there are simple things from what you plant on your own property, to how you manage your land. All of those things are all important from a bird conservation standpoint,” said Hagenbuch, a conservation biologist for Audubon Vermont.

Hagenbuch participated in the Hunger Mountain Bird Count, that took place between Waterbury and Stowe.

“We would stop along the way and get out (of the car), and walk sections of the road. Walk by people’s houses, looking to see if they had (bird) feeders. We record what those species are, as well as how many,” Hagenbuch said. 

Whether you are a bird enthusiast or not, you can get involved. “Even if you are a novice, these are guided counts, led by people that have experience. It’s very educational,” Hagenbuch said.

The Christmas Bird Count will wrap up on January 5th, 2019.

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