Every year thousands of people across the county get together for the Christmas bird count. Known as one of the largest citizen-science projects people spread out through their neighborhoods to document the distribution and population of birds. Houston Public Radio’s Laurie Johnson has more.
The Christmas Bird Count was formed by Frank Chapman in 1900. Local Naturalist Gary Clark says it was Chapman’s alternative to the then popular bird-shooting events.
“They would compete for how many birds they could kill in a single day, and that was called a side-hunt. And Chapman, and of course many others, were appalled by this kind of slaughter and Chapman decided well, maybe people would prefer to go out and count birds, rather than kill them.”
Just 27 people participated in the Christmas Bird Count that year. Now, more 57,000 people tromp through forests, marshes and parks identifying and counting birds. Clark says this region of Texas is one of the best for finding native and migratory birds.
“The greater Houston area is kind of like the tropics. You know, some of us who’ve lived here all our lives might have figured that out because it’s often hot and humid and it feels tropical. And from the bird’s point of view when they are migrating and they’re moving around for the winter, they get to Houston and they don’t have to go any further.”
In fact, last year the Matagorda Mad Island Count near Bay City was the highest bird count in the nation, with 250 species sighted. Anyone with any level of experience can participate in the Christmas Bird Count by contacting the Houston Audubon Society. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.