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Birders flock to count

The Windsor Star

December 21, 2010

By Kristie Pearce

Once a competitive hunting tradition, now a citizen science movement -- the annual Christmas Bird Count has bird watchers across the Americas searching the skies.

From Dec. 15 to Jan. 5, groups will survey specific routes within a circle 24 kilometres in diameter over the course of a single day.

Three local counts have already been held at Cedar Creek, Rondeau Provincial Park and Point Pelee National Park. Upcoming counts will take place Dec. 27 at Holiday Beach Conservation Area and Jan. 1 at the Detroit River.

The bird count began as the Christmas bird census, a once popular annual hunt where teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds.

In 1900, American ornithologist Frank Chapman suggested counting the birds instead of hunting them -- concerned as he was with declining bird populations, according to the National Audubon Society.

"We can see what's happening to different populations of birds and we can track over the years what their population numbers are," said Victoria Foote, director of communications for Ontario Nature, a non-profit environmental organization.

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