Christmas Bird Count
Next Yosemite Christmas Bird Count: Dec. 15, 2019 (details below)
Tens of thousands of volunteers across the Americas join together annually during the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The event provides people a full day to celebrate birds. Since 1932, Yosemite's participation has contributed nearly 100,000 observations to the conservation event. For many people, spending the day observing birds while reuniting with birding friends and contributing to bird conservation is what makes their holiday season complete.
Keen eyes and ears made for some great birding moments and highlights. The early morning hoots of a pair of great horned owls and a California spotted owl kicked off the 2018 count. Birders up high in the Chinquapin zone observed a turkey vulture (observed previously in 1979 and 2010) and birders lower down observed a record high count for California scrub jay (116 individuals). In El Portal birders observed a rare red-breasted x red-naped sapsucker hybrid (observed previously only in 2008 CBC). High numbers of mallard (26 individuals), oak titmouse (63), bushtit (217), and spotted towhee (87) broke previous count records; California thrasher numbers were the second highest (5 individuals compared to 8 in 1973). Since this year was just two species below the record high (68 versus 70 species), it’s surprising that some reliable species such as common merganser and Brewer’s blackbird were missed.
View raw data results from 2008 - 2018 [203 kb XLSX]
The next Yosemite Christmas Bird Count is December 15, 2019. To attend the full-day event, bring binoculars, a field guide, lunch, plenty of warm clothes and sturdy shoes. Plan to be outside all day, from around dawn to dusk. An annual compilation potluck dinner closes the day to allow participants to share Yosemite birding highlights. To participate, you must register in advance by contacting the Yosemite Christmas Bird Count Organizer.
When bird-watching, experienced birders confidently identify birds by just a glimpse. (See illustrations of Yosemite's most common species.) Remember that a bird’s feathers change as an adult molts into its winter plumage. For many species, a male bird’s winter plumage is dull compared to his colorful plumage in the spring when he is interested in attracting a female with whom to mate. Also, note subtle nuances in a bird’s song or call—long trills or short chips. In the winter, birds rarely sing but make call notes to defend a territory, announce the presence of a predator, or to keep up with a mixed-species foraging flock.
Last updated: March 5, 2019