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Ontario Nature clubs count for conservation - 110th Christmas bird count

Tuesday, December 15th 2009 9:57:39am

Media Release
For Immediate Release

Counting for conservation!
The 110th Christmas Bird Count

Toronto, December 15, 2009 - Citizen scientists are grabbing their binoculars and heading outside for the annual Christmas Bird Count, the largest single volunteer conservation movement on behalf of wildlife.  The count begins this week and continues until January 5, 2010.

This year, nearly 40 Ontario Nature member groups are leading bird counts in communities as far north as Thunder Bay, to Point Pelee in the south, and Kingston and the Ottawa area in the east.  All bird counts are open to the public.

The data collected from the counts allow researchers and conservation organizations to study the long-term health, population numbers, and ranges of birds across North America.  Armed with this information, groups like Ontario Nature can then identify threats to birds and their habitat, and determine appropriate conservation action.

Says Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature, "The birds of Ontario are a critical part of this province's biodiversity.  The Christmas Bird Count is a key survey that reveals which populations are increasing and which are decreasing.  Anyone can get involved in a bird count and know that they are contributing to meaningful scientific research."

The Christmas Bird Count started out as the Christmas Bird Census led by American ornithologist Frank Chapman as an alternative to a once popular annual hunt during which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals as a Christmas day activity. Chapman's suggestion that birds be counted instead of shot changed the course of ornithological history and set the stage for creating an enormously important conservation tool on behalf of birds and the environment.

Today, nearly 400 Christmas Bird Counts are held in Canada - and more than 100 in Ontario alone - with some 12,000 volunteer participants.   Last year, over 2,000 bird counts were conducted across the Americas - a record high.

Bird Studies Canada coordinates the count in Canada in a joint program with the National Audubon Society.  Counts are open to birders of all skill levels.

For a full list of the Ontario Nature member groups that are holding bird counts and when, please visit the Nature Network on our website, www.ontarionature.org.

Ontario quick facts:

* Last year, Ontario Nature member group, Nature London, celebrated its 100th count with more than 100 participants.  London is still Cardinal Capital of the Year with almost 900 of the birds counted.

* Christmas Bird Counts show population declines and also success stories.  Both the Orillia Field Naturalists and Rouge Park documented record high numbers of Trumpeter swans - a species once close to extinction -- which they attribute to the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre's restoration efforts.  The same year, the South Peel Naturalists' Club, based in Missassauga/Oakville, recorded unusually low counts of house sparrows.

* This year, the Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists are celebrating their 75th Christmas Bird Count.

* During last year's Christmas Bird Count, almost 60,000 volunteers across North America and beyond tallied more than 65 million birds.  Approximately 11,000 volunteers in Canada participated in 361 counts and tallied nearly 3 million birds.

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For more information, please contact:

Victoria Foote, Director of Communications, Ontario Nature: 416 444-8419 ext.238; victoriaf@ontarionature.org.
John Hassell, Communications Coordinator, Ontario Nature: 416 444-8419 ext.269; johnh@ontarionature.org.

Ontario Nature
protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. It connects thousands of individuals and communities with nature through conservation groups across the province (charitable registration #10737 8952 RR0001). For more information, visit www.ontarionature.org.