Christmas Bird Count: Almost 50 different bird species at RFAAP

By Matthew Wheaton, Joint Munitions Command, Public and Congressional AffairsMarch 5, 2024

Christmas Bird Count: Almost 50 different bird species at RFAAP
A brown-headed nuthatch perches near a birdhouse at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Raymond Callahan) VIEW ORIGINAL

The National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count is one of the oldest and largest citizen science projects in the world, and it has taken place since 1900.

In this annual event, volunteers across the Americas count and record bird species to help scientists better understand bird populations, their distribution, and how they are changing over time.

And for the last 24 years, the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia has contributed data to the long-standing tradition.

In 2023, community volunteers counted 47 separate bird species at RFAAP. The list includes some of the following: red-winged blackbirds, rusty blackbirds, eastern bluebirds, northern cardinals, northern flickers, American goldfinches, red-tailed hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, American kestrels, killdeer, belted kingfishers, golden-crowned kinglets, brown-headed nuthatches, white-breasted nuthatches, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, song sparrows, swamp sparrows, hermit thrushes, tufted titmice, eastern towhees, turkeys, yellow-rumped warblers, cedar waxwings, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers, and red-bellied woodpeckers.

“The CBC provides valuable information about the health of bird populations, the impacts of climate change, habitat loss, and other environmental factors,” said Laura Dickerson, an environmental protection specialist at RFAAP. “It also serves as a fun and educational activity for birdwatchers of all ages and skill levels, helping to foster a greater appreciation for birds and the natural world.

“Data from the count is used to assess the health of bird populations and help guide conservation actions,” Dickerson added. “The data helps provide a picture of how the continent’s bird populations are changing and help identify environmental issues that may be arising.”

Across the Western Hemisphere, tens of thousands of volunteers participate in the CBC each year, covering more than 2,500 count circles.

Count circles are 15-mile diameter areas where volunteers systematically count all birds seen or heard within a 24-hour period.

Throughout the 123rd CBC, which took place Dec.14, 2023 through Jan. 5, 2024, participants worldwide recorded a total of 40,298,635 birds. This figure encompasses 36,680,012 birds documented in the United States, 3,216,551 in Canada, and 402,072 in regions including Latin America, the Caribbean, and Pacific Islands.

In the most recent CBC, 671 bird species, along with 70 infraspecific forms, and 35 exotic species were documented in the U.S.

“The comprehensive scope of the CBC not only offers a snapshot of bird diversity but also highlights the interconnectedness of habitats across continents,” Dickerson said. “It unveils trends that inform conservation strategies and scientific research.

“Beyond the numbers, the CBC embodies a profound connection between people and nature, fostering a shared dedication to understanding and preserving our feathered companions,” Dickerson added. “As each participant contributes their observations, they weave a narrative of avian life, underscoring the importance of collaborative efforts in safeguarding biodiversity.”

Lt. Col. Adrien Humphreys, RFAAP’s commander, echoes Dickerson.

“The Christmas Bird Count at Radford endures as a beacon of environmental stewardship and community engagement, which helps inspire future generations to cherish and protect our avian neighbors,” Humphreys said.

Want to know more about RFAAP? Check out... Eight decades and counting: Legacy of environmental stewardship at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant