Christmas Bird Count

The CBC began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities, led by scientist and writer Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history.  On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group posed an alternative to the “side hunt,” a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals.  Instead, Chapman proposed that they identify, count and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world’s most significant citizen-based conservation effort – and a more than a century-old institution.

Our youngest birder, Lilah Bird, browsing the birding field guides for the CBC, 2018

Each Christmas Bird Count is conducted on a single day between December 14 and January 5. Birders and nature enthusiasts on Cortes Island join birders across the western hemisphere to participate in North America’s longest-running wintertime birding tradition, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC).  The CBC is conducted in over 2000 localities across Canada, the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean.  As well as adding an exciting and fun event to the holiday season, the Christmas Bird Count provides important information for bird conservation. Data from the count were used in assessment reports that added Western Screech-Owl, Rusty Blackbird and Newfoundland Red Crossbill to the Species at Risk Act list, and the general database was used extensively in the recent State of Canada’s Birds report.

Cortes Island CBC is co-sponsored by the Cortes Island Museum and Birds Canada.  Participants usually divide up into small groups to cover the island’s best birding spots. All groups have experienced birders willing to share their knowledge, so novices are welcome!  A hot catered lunch can be reserved – specify veggie or meat(*). Bring binoculars, bird books and dress warmly. Backyard birdfeeder observers also needed.  Participants must pre-register by calling 250-935-6340 or via email at

(*) In COVID-19 years, the CBC is done individually or in small family groups, and the results are phoned in.