New Audubon bird count starts along the Choctawhatchee River and its tributaries

December 20, 2009

Ruby-crowned kinglet
Ruby-crowned kinglet

79 species, 10,202 birds counted

For 110 years, the Audubon Society has been documenting the bird population across the United States. Each year local Audubon Society chapters head out for the day to collect bird species and population counts in their areas. Three counts are held; a spring migration, fall migration and a Christmas count. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action.

Locally, the Choctawhatchee Audubon Chapter hosted their annual Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 14 in the Okaloosa and Walton area. This year, the count was expanded geographically on Nov. 17 to include a new area along the Choctawhatchee River and its tributaries in Walton, Holmes and Washington counties.

As a “test run” of an official bird count, the event was spearheaded by James Hill, III, a local wildlife biologist who has been studying evidence of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Choctawhatchee River basin for several years. In 2006, Hill was the supervisor of image surveillance by Auburn University to search for the nearly extinct bird for six months.

Don Ware, the Choctawhatchee Audubon Society’s president presided over the count. Fifteen volunteers participated, with 79 species and 10,202 birds recorded.

Some of the most prevalent populations counted were robin, black vulture, ring-neck duck, mourning dove, red-bellied woodpecker, American crow, blue jay, northern flicker, eastern phoebe, pileated woodpecker, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, ruby-crowned kiglet, eastern bluebird and Carolina wren.Click here for birding map

To learn more about the local Audubon chapter, go to: www.choctawhatcheeaudubon.org