Over recent years Oregon
birdwatching groups and local chapters of the National Audubon Society have been keeping keen watch over bird hatcheries and habitats throughout the State, and compiling and sharing important data with other environmental organizations in a joint effort to better understand and protect endangered species in the Pacific Northwest. Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Audubon Christmas bird count, an annual event that relies heavily on volunteers in all 50 states and most of the Northern Hemisphere wherein birds of every species are counted and recorded during the period between December 17 and January 3.
Results from such bird counts do vitally assess the overall status, population and health of continental birds as well as the general
condition of the environment. And while at present count, a number of species are off the endangered list, a great many of our fine feathered friends still face extinction–especially rare species in the State of Oregon and the greater Pacific Northwest.
First held in 1900, the Christmas bird count was established by the
Audubon Society’s renowned ornithologist Frank Chapman who began the annual event to protest hunters who held “side hunt” contests in which winning participants were rewarded for shooting the greatest number and diverse varieties of birds.
Once a common practice in the United States and Canada, both side hunts and general bird hunting have been outlawed throughout most of North America, and violators are met with steep fines and sometimes even sizable prison terms. Still, in some remote areas the practice persists, and dwindling bird populations are a testament to the continual slaughtering of birds and other wildlife–all for the sake of sport and recreation.
But finally, bird watchers are making a difference and, with the help of the Audubon Society and organizations like SEI (the Sustainable Ecosystems Institute), endangered bird species and other wildlife crises are being dealt with on a daily basis and public awareness is mounting to protect wildlife habitates as well as our ever shrinking natural environment.
Currently, local chapters of the Audubon Society in Portland, Salem and Siskiyou, to name just three, are assembling volunteers in ever increasing numbers to participate in bird counts and record-gathering to assist scientists and ecologists from SEI and other environmental groups in their efforts to safeguard our ecosystems and specifically protect both normal and endangered bird species.
Decades ago, especially in Oregon, bird counts marked the decline of several species now on the rebound; among these were the bald eagle, peregrine falcon and trumpeter swan. At present, the winter wren, black-capped chickadee, varied thrush and scrub jay all top the list of endangered birds indignious to Oregon. But bird counting, the marking and cordoning off of bird hatcheries and habitats, with the assistance of public awareness and government involvement should once and for all stem the decline of most if not all Pacific Northwest endangered birds and restore our fragmented environment to its natural and life-providing status.
The annual bird count today still promotes bird watching and conservation, and citizens from every occupation and walk of life are joining in and participating in this enormously productive and exciting outdoor activity. Bird counts and other related facts and information can be obtained online at http://birdsource.org or at http://www.toolady.com. And but of course, anyone directly willing or interested in bird counting or birdwatching and contributing in some small degree to protecting wildlife and our ecology need only contact their local Audubon Society chapter to get involved.
Other than this, some warm clothing, a little enthusiasm and two strong feet are all one needs to find where some of our fine feathered friends are currently perched!
Encyclopedia Britannica – 1989 ed.