ALBUQUERQUE – If you want to contribute to more than a century of science about the feathered friends in your community, Audubon New Mexico’s 120th Christmas Bird Count started this weekend.
Jonathan Hayes, executive director of Audubon New Mexico, says the state is in the top five for the number of species counted each winter.
As the state’s chief bird advocate, Hayes oversees multiple teams that each cover a 15-mile radius in various parts of the state to count all the birds they see.
“Quite often they’ll start before the sun even rises, looking for owls or whippoorwills or other nocturnal birds, spend all day counting every bird they see,” he points out.
Several studies have shown a decline in bird populations, and recent data from the University of Michigan shows North American migratory birds have been getting smaller and their wingspan wider over the past four decades, changes attributed to a warming climate.
The Audubon Society’s annual bird count in New Mexico and across the nation starts Saturday and continues through Jan. 5.
Nearly 550 species of birds have been verified in New Mexico either by specimen, photograph or audio recording, but Hayes notes they’re increasingly vulnerable to extinction.
“There’s a recent study that showed that over 3 billion birds have been lost in North America in the last 50 years,” he relates. “That’s a pretty catastrophic decline and scares the heck out of us, and we hope that it’s a call to action.”
Hayes says bird watchers, volunteers and community members will conduct 50 bird counts across the state in the next three weeks.
“It helps us know what the birds in North America are doing over time, but also keys us in to things that happen to bird populations in short periods of time, from one year to another,” he explains.
The Audubon Society encourages people to create bird friendly habitats, and provides a list of native plants based on ZIP Code at audubon.org.