Christmas Counts were begun by Frank Chapman in 1900, as an alternative to the Christmas tradition of "side hunts", in which teams, or sides, competed to see who could shoot the most game in a day. But you may not know how that tradition in turn got started. Mike Busam has an interesting article on the Christmas tradition of Hunting the Wren on the Cincinnati Birds web site.
The National Audubon Society has built on the Christmas Count tradition by conducting a series of bird counts, covering all of North America and beyond. The counts are held over a period of two and a half weeks during late December and early January. Each count is done in the course of a single calendar day, within a designated circle 15 miles in diameter. The numbers of each species present that day are tabulated, and submitted to National Audubon for publication. The results have been compiled into a database going back over a hundred years, which has been used by researchers to further our understanding of bird population dynamics. You can find more information about the data, and about all the Audubon Christmas Counts, at www.audubon.org.
Besides the "official" National Audubon Christmas Counts, many other local organizations conduct other winter bird counts. Some are based on circles, some on counties, and some on yet other criteria. Although equally enjoyable to do, the data from these counts receives far less widespread distribution, and is less useful for research purposes because it is not as standardized.
Find a Count
We have compiled information on as many winter bird counts as we could find. You can search for Ohio counts using the links found on this site, either by the name of the count or by county. If you know of other counts, National Audubon or otherwise, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.