The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Max Erikson

Annual bird count unites watchers across the Americas


November 29, 2017

Audubon Christmas Bird Count Website

WINDOW ON WINGED CREATURES: This year's annual Lyle Bird Count will join participants in the international event from Canada to South America

The 21st annual Lyle Bird Count is Dec. 17, and local bird watching enthusiasts can participate in this international event that stretches from South America to Canada.

Bob Hansen has been leading the Lyle Bird Count for the past 20 years and acts as the count organizer or compiler for the event. He says the information collected by bird watchers is entered into a data base and is used by research scientists to track bird populations.

"All counts last 24 hours, and take place within a 15 mile diameter circle," Hansen says. "In our case, from approximately Horsethief Lake to Mosier."

The Lyle Bird Count is part of the larger international Christmas Bird Count-now in its 118th year-running from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. Tens of thousands of volunteers participate in the Christmas Bird Count, and there are over 2,000 such counts in the Western Hemisphere.

"People come from all over the northwest to participate in our bird count," Hansen says. "People come from Seattle, Portland, and Corvallis. Many come just to see the Acorn Woodpecker that is only found in our little corner of Washington State."

On the day of the event, volunteers are assigned to a specific area or section of the 15-mile circle count and identify as many species as they can. Start time is at 8 a.m. and runs till 4 p.m.

Hansen named it the Lyle Bird Count to generate community pride and says it is the prerogative of the compiler to choose the name for the count circle. Hansen will work the night shift to try and spot the nocturnal owls.

"The benefit of the bird count is to help us observe changes in the ecosystem," Hansen says. "And it really helps conservationists understand the ebbs and flows of changing bird habitats."

Hansen says it is a team effort when compiling statistics for the bird count and the event brings people together in a way that connects us where we live.

"The count that we do every year gives a snap shot of the bird situation in our area," Hansen says. "It brings awareness to the environment and we average spotting over 100 different species each year."

The event is sponsored by the National Audubon Society and it has been happening every year-officially-since 1919, but the idea for the bird count started at the beginning of the 20th century.

Prior to the turn of the 20th century, hunters would use the holiday season to go on what was known as the Christmas "Side Hunt," a competition between teams to see who could bring back the highest number of hunted birds.

By the early part of the century conservationists were becoming concerned with declining bird populations, and on Christmas Day 1900 bird expert Frank Chapman-a leader in the emerging National Audubon Society-started a new holiday tradition called the "Christmas Bird Census" that would count birds during the holidays instead of hunt them.

To join the team and be part of the Lyle Christmas bird count, contact Bob Hansen via email at

To learn more about the history and rules of the Christmas bird count, visit the website at


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