Annual Birmingham-Area Bird Count Canceled Due To Pandemic

 1533030944 
1608641734
An evening grosbeak, a yellow winter finch with streaks of black and white

Birders have observed the evening grosbeak around Alabama this fall, much further south than normal. However, hard data on the bird's range will be limited as Alabama Aububon decided to cancel its annual Christmas bird count around Birmingham.

Alain Audet, Pixabay

In normal years, it’s a winter tradition: a few dozen bird lovers spread out across the Birmingham area to count birds as part of the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count. But leaders with Alabama Audubon have canceled the event this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

 “As much as I would like for us to do the count, I just know it puts our membership at risk,” said Greg Harber, Alabama Audubon board member and count organizer.

The local tallies go into a national database that tracks bird populations. With the lack of new numbers this year, researchers fear they could miss out on important changes to bird species’ habitat and range. Harber spoke about the annual bird count with WBHM’s Andrew Yeager.

How does the count show habitat fluctuations from year-to-year?

For instance, the evening grosbeak would be found in the northern portion of the United States. They breed up in the boreal forests of Canada. In most years they barely make it into the northern tier of the United States. Well, this year they’re already showing up as far south as Florida and they’ve been sighted here in Alabama in a few places. 

That’s the beauty of doing these counts. It gives you a good sense if this is a typical year for them, or are we seeing more. So with the evening grosbeak as an example, when their food resources decline up in the boreal forests, that’s when they’re forced to move south.

We’ve just been through a federal census counting humans. One of the things census watchers said is that there are certain groups or demographics that are hard to count. When it comes to birds, are there certain species that are difficult to count?

Sure. The nocturnal species. If they’re not particularly vocal, they can obviously be difficult to count, primarily the owls. Others that can be a challenge are ones that typically might come to a feeder, but can be difficult to locate in the woods. There are just some species that are shy and retiring in nature so to speak.

What will you miss about not doing the count this year?

The thrill of doing the count and the chance to get together with everyone to swap stories at the compilation. That’s always great fun. If you see an unusual bird, it’s kind of nice just to be able to come in and say, “oh, you won’t believe what I saw.” Then you get to share in the joy of somebody else seeing something unusual.

 

You’re Right, It Has Been Raining More Than Usual This Summer In Birmingham

Rainfall was higher than normal this summer across much of Central Alabama.

Gulf State Schools Had Mask Mandates Last Fall. That Isn’t The Case This Year.

The coronavirus pandemic’s fourth wave has not changed state-wide back-to-school plans in the Gulf South, where cases are rising and mask use is voluntary.

ACLU Of Alabama’s Director Looks To The ‘Next Iteration Of The Civil Rights Movement’

JaTaune Bosby, the first Black woman to lead the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, took the job during a tumultuous time in the country with the pandemic and last year’s summer of racial reckoning.

Jefferson County Commissioners Look For Ways To Stop Illegal Dumping

The amount of illegal dumping of trash in Jefferson County is "concerning," says county commissioners. They say more needs to be done to address the problem, which could include more stringent penalties.

More Extreme Weather In Gulf States Means More Power Outages. Are Energy Companies Ready For It?

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be as active as last year’s, when thousands in the Gulf South were without power for weeks after hurricanes Laura, Zeta, Cristobal and Delta. With that increased activity comes a bigger threat to the region’s power grid. How prepared are Gulf States’ energy companies for the threat to come?

Alabama Sees ‘Unprecedented’ Surge In COVID-19 Hospitalizations

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the increase is linked to the more contagious Delta variant, coupled with Alabama’s low vaccination rate.

More Arts and Culture Coverage