Bird Counts

Prior to 1900, there was a holiday tradition called a Christmas Side Hunt,” in which people would choose up teams, go out in the field and see how many birds and other animals they could shoot. Frank Chapman, an ornithologist and early member of the National Audubon Society, suggested taking a Christmas bird census instead. The first census was conducted in 1900 with 27 birders finding 90 species, and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count has been held every year since. However, it is a little larger now, with more than 60,000 people looking for birds over 2100 count circles extending beyond the United States to Canada, large parts of South America and even some islands in the Pacific.

In Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, a Christmas Bird Count has been held continuously from at least since 1950. By rule, the count encompasses a circle that is 15 miles in diameter. Thus our count circle ranges from Salem Lake on the east to Tanglewood Park on the west and from Bethania and C.G. Hill Park on the north to the county line on the south. Each year, on a date selected between December 14 and January 5, teams fan out to see how many species and how many total birds of each species they can find. Depending upon the weather, the species total generally is somewhere between 80 and 100, including several species of ducks that visit here during winter. Data is compiled and added to a National Audubon Society database that is available for review at

If you are interested in participating in the Forsyth County Christmas Bird Count, contact us at 

Forsyth Audubon members also help with Christmas Bird Counts in the areas of our adopted Important Bird Areas at Hanging Rock State Park (Compiler: Jean Chamberlain, 336-983-6543) and the New River Corridor in Ashe County. Members help with a Christmas Bird Count held at Pilot Mountain State Park. Other area counts include Upper Yadkin Valley and Stone Mountain in Wilkes County.

Forsyth Audubon conducts a spring count each May in the same circle used for the Christmas count. Members also help with spring counts at Hanging Rock State Park and Pilot Mountain State Park.