Around 40 children ages 7 and up attended the fourth annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids — sponsored by the Ozark Gateway Audubon Chapter of the Audubon Society — on Saturday at the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center.
“The purpose is to have a family-oriented activity that kids can do with their other family members, get them interested in birds and birding,” said Chris Pistole, education director at the center. “The official bird count that Audubon has been doing for 113 years now, that is mostly adults, it is a little more serious, but we want to make sure there will be future birders, people who will help continue that tradition.”
The event started at 9 a.m. at the center, where the participants took part in workshops before heading to different parts of the glades and the surrounding area.
“They learned how to ID birds and how to use binoculars,” he said. “They will go out in teams, we have five or six kids per team. They go out in the park and couple of other nearby areas, we are doing a count then. We count all of the birds that we see and ID them to the species. So in the end, we end up compiling a list of how many species we are seeing, which ones and how many of each kind we are seeing. And that really does help us know more about what birds are here during the winter months, if the populations are about the same, if they down, if they are up, so it does give us a good snap-shot if you will what the bird populations are like.”
Aside from the cardinal, there are quite a number of bird species they saw.
“A lot of people don’t realize that there are a number of birds that only come down here to Missouri and other parts of the lower 48 states in the winter months,” Pistole said. “They breed way up north in Canada and some even into the Arctic. It is amazing how many birds actually breed in Alaska. So in the fall, they start migrating down — there are a number of different sparrows. On an average year, we see about 70-76 bird species in our official Christmas bird count that the adults do during December, early January.”
The red-breasted nuthatch is another common bird.
“That is one that only comes down here in the winter. Of course, last winter was a big one for the snowy owls,” he added. “That was a very unusual year, there were so many snowy owls and they came much further south. You really don’t know what you would expect, it is also the time of the year that we really get the majority of the bald eagles in Missouri, they come from up north.”
Page 2 of 2 - Pistole was pleased with the good attendance.
“It is really exciting to see so much interest in birds. Birding is now considered the second most popular hobby in America, second only to gardening,” he said.