The Christmas Bird Count is Now Free!

The CBC is now FREE!

Important and Exciting news for the Christmas Bird Count program

After nearly two years of internal discussions, budget modeling, head-scratching, and intense decision-making, two major changes will come to the Christmas Bird Count program effective with the upcoming 113th Count in December, 2012.  

First, the CBC is now a free program.  Audubon will no longer charge the $5.00 fee of field participants.  

 Second, to minimize the effects of the loss of fee income, American Birds will no longer be printed on paper and mailed to participants, and Audubon will move to an online delivery of the summary results of the CBC.

To help Audubon make these important decisions regarding the Christmas Bird Count program, we invited people involved with the count to participate in an online survey earlier this year. The results of the online survey that many of you participated in last spring were very enlightening, and are summarized in the upcoming 112th CBC summary issue of American Birds-the last one to appear in print. The 130 pages of written comments were the most telling aspects of the survey feedback. Some people understand the fee and don’t mind paying it, but the main thrust of written comments was that the fee is a major obstacle to the program, and the strong message was that more people would be involved, more counts would be included in the CBC database, and more accurate effort data would be collected if the fee was dropped.

Also highly informative were peoples’ comments regarding American Birds.  While a few folks commented that they enjoyed the information it contains and enjoy reading at least parts of it each year, the primary sentiment expressed was that recipients do not value American Birds in its current format, that they do not read most of it.  Many survey respondents felt that an interactive, online version of the magazine would better suit their needs-especially if the participation fee was dropped.

In order to continue to fund the Christmas Bird Count program in the long term, Audubon will be moving to a voluntary donation model for the CBC.

With the online delivery of American Birds via a new interactive web presence including photos, summaries, and features, content can now be presented online as they are completed.  Most critically, a new Citizen Science gateway will enable Audubon to be in touch directly with those participants who elect to take part and directly service the needs of participants as well as compilers.

While the integrity of the CBC is crucial to maintain for its bird trend data, it has become equally important for the ability to engage people in other citizen science projects.  Toward that end Audubon will be expanding its Citizen Science projects, and the CBC will, of course, be a cornerstone program.

The Audubon Science team is now working with the Information Technology division to implement changes and improvements to the new CBC data entry application.  The most important changes will be to make the application faster and easier to navigate.  Additionally of course, with the dropping of the mandatory participant fees the entire fee payment section will be dropped and the participant list section will be simplified. The opportunity to donate to the CBC program will be available in various places on the data entry application and for those who register in advance for the CBC, as well as on the CBC website.

Once the new version of the data entry application is ready, we will be in touch with a new CBC Data Entry Manual available to compilers.  We will be in touch with compilers via email as portions of the application are available to you, including the initial post-a-date version of the application.

Starting in early October  we will also be able to make any requested changes of compilers and begin the process of setting up new CBCs for the upcoming 113th CBC.

Audubon extends our deepest thanks to all of you for your long standing dedication to the Christmas Bird Count program.  We especially appreciate your willingness to share your views with us, and this information has been crucial to the decisions summarized here.

The Budget Summary for 112th CBC is available in the online version and hard copy of the letter you will be receiving in the mail shortly.

We thank you for your work in making the CBC the continued success that it is.

Thanks very much, and have a wonderful FREE Christmas Bird Count season.  Good birding!


Geoff LeBaron                                                     Gary Langham
Director, Christmas Bird Count                       Vice-President & Chief Scientist
National Audubon Society                             National Audubon Society
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