Christmas Bird Count is holiday tradition for many

HENDRY COUNTY — As I watched the flocks of migratory birds beginning to arrive around Lake O this morning, it reminded me that our family’s annual tradition is coming up. The Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

Lake Okeechobee News/Danika Hopper
Clewiston’s CBC gives birdwatchers a chance to spot the favorites like pelicans, woodstorks, and even Roseate spoonbills.

This is a tradition that started 120 years ago, by ornithologist Frank Chapman. Instead of the common practice at the time, of shooting the most birds possible, Chapman started a census of birds, a count that has now grown into one of the best known wildlife surveys around the globe. People from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda, West Indies, Pacific Islands and Central and South America all participate in the activity that combines citizen science with a fun, social event.

“During a CBC volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally — all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day,” explains bird watcher and Clewiston native, Shannon Kelly. This is her 23rd CBC.

“If you are a beginner, you just join a group that has an experienced birdwatcher. They’ll teach you all you need to know.”

Rare birds are often spotted, populations trends, and other important statistics have been gathered during this traditional holiday birdwatching event. Our local Hendry-Glades Audubon Society invites anyone who is interested in participating this season, to join them Saturday, Dec. 28, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the South Florida Water Management Stormwater Treatment Area 5/6.

Birdwatchers have had access to this area since fall 2004, and while the scenery isn’t glamorous, the amount of birds seen here can be mind-blowing! In past years, Clewiston has boasted the highest number of birds tallied in Florida. This area has even placed in the top 10 overall counts in the United States and Canada. Bird counts have been known to range from 30,000 to 40,000 birds in one day!

Kelly goes on to say, “I love doing the Clewiston Christmas Bird Count, it’s so much fun! I try to bring at least one new person with me every year. We get a few new volunteer spotters, compilers, and photographers each time. It’s for any age or skill level.”

If you’re interested in joining the Hendry-Glades Audubon for a local CBC, contact Margaret England at 863-517-0202 or by email

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