People flock to Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City to see birds from around the world. While providing a look at unique and colorful fowl from across the planet plays into the aviary's goal to inspire curiosity and caring for birds and nature, staffers also recognize the value of showing birds a little closer to home.
Tracy Aviary, for the first time, is participating in the 114th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. But the counters will not be traveling far.
A group of 20 children will meet at the aviary on Saturday, arm themselves with clipboards, bird identification books and binoculars and head into the urban wilds of Liberty Park.
"This is a great opportunity to introduce kids to birding and how cool it is," said Anne Terry, bird program educator at Tracy Aviary, which is located within the confines of Liberty Park. "Participation in something like the annual Christmas Bird Count gives them a sense of contributing to something really important. Getting to know their feathered neighbors helps give them a general sense of place."
More than 30 Aubduon Christmas Bird Counts will be taking place in and around Utah between Dec. 14 and Jan. 4 as part of an effort across North America to survey bird populations and track population trends.
Utah counts range from Bear Lake to Bluff and locales between, including Escalante, and Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks. Popular counts include Antelope Island State Park, Moab, Park City and, of course, Salt Lake City.
Visit utahbirds.org/cbc/cbc.html for a complete list of the counts.
The St. George count carries bragging rights from 2012 with a state high 104 species counted. The annual Audubon counts were originally established as a way to get people outdoors viewing wildlife without the need to hunt.
Christmas Counts are the longest-running Citizen Science survey in the world as people gather in the United States, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.
According to Keith Evans, the longtime compiler of Christmas Count reports for Utah and Wyoming, 192 species were reported in the Beehive State during the 2012-13 counts. Four of the count areas Logan, Salt Lake City , St. George and Silver Reef tallied more than 100 species during the day or counting.
Unexpected species counted in the 113th event in Utah included Western sandpipers, a Harlequin duck, snow buntings, blue jay, northern mockingbirds and an indigo bunting.
Terry said children participating in the already-full count at Liberty Park will likely see American coots, killdeer, ring-billed gulls, mallards, dark-eyed juncos and northern flickers.
"We are really excited for this event," she said. "This is a time of year when we usually don't have a lot going on. It is kind of a planning time and gearing up for the spring. It's great to have something to offer, especially for the children."
Audubon Christmas Bird Counts
See a video about the history of the annual Christmas Bird Count produced by the National Audubon Society at http://youtu.be/zkn0rzRfwFw. For a list of the Utah Christmas Bird Count events visit http://utahbirds.org/cbc/cbc.html.