Kodiak birders to flock to Christmas Bird Count this month

Kittlitz’s murrelet, a common bird in Kodiak. (Photo by Alan Schmierer / Flickr)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

It’s the 45th year of the Kodiak Christmas bird count.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bird biologist, Robin Corcoran, says residents go out and record sightings on a data sheet.

She says the event began in 1900.

“It used to be a holiday tradition in the late 1800s to go out and shoot as many birds and mammals as you could in one day. It was a shooting competition, and that wasn’t very sustainable. And people became more conscious of declines and so it was proposed that, instead of going out and shooting them, that we go out and count them.”

Corcoran says the practice now contributes to an international bird census. She says it includes thousands of count circles that have helped the scientific community trace the sizes and locations of bird populations.

“We’ve been able to track the impacts of climate change effects, so basically the northward expansion of a lot of these species. Their range expanding in the winter because it’s getting warmer. That’s a big one. And it’s also data that’s used extensively for national and regional watch lists for species of conservation concern.”

She says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses the count to determine conservation priorities.

“We have basically the birds of conservation concern lists that are generated. That really relies on this CBC data, the Christmas Bird Count data, because we just don’t have anything like it in terms of that long of a time series, and it covers such a huge area. So, temporally and spatially, it’s huge.”

She says Kodiak sees about 74 to 85 different species and it usually leads the state in species diversity.

The Kodiak bird count is December 16 and the Narrow Cape and Kalsin Bay count is December 30.

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