The history of how the Christmas Bird Count began is quite interesting, according to Kenai National Wildlife Refuge wildlife biologist Liz Jozwiak.
The first CBC was done on Christmas Day of 1900 as an alternative activity to an event called a “side hunt” where people chose sides, then went out and shot as many birds as they could.
The group that came in with the largest number of dead birds won the event.
Frank Chapman, a famed ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History and the editor of “Bird-Lore,” recognized that declining bird populations could not withstand this kind of over-hunting, and he proposed to count birds on Christmas Day rather than shoot them.
This first Christmas Bird Count took place in 1900 and involved 27 total participants in 25 localities that counted roughly 18,500 individual birds, 90 species total.
The Soldotna Christmas Bird Count originated in 1983 with the center of the 15-mile diameter circle being the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge headquarters and covering most of the Soldotna area, including a good stretch of the lower and middle Kenai River.
Although the count was discontinued in 1992, it restarted in 1999 and has been running ever since with the dedication of local birder Jack Sinclair, who has been the official compiler of the data each year.
Whether collected locally, nationally or internationally, the data collected by observers over the past century have allowed researchers, conservation biologists, and interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.
For anyone interested in learning more about the Christmas Bird Count, there is a wealth of information available online at www.audubon.-org/bird/cbc/.
The Soldotna bird count totals since 1984 are available to view here as well as every other bird count in North America during the last century.
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