Christmas Bird Count

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The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a program of National Audubon, a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Birds Connect Seattle administers our local CBC and submits data to the national effort.

The 2023 Seattle CBC will take place on Sunday, December 17!

Register for the IN-FIELD Count here.

Register for the AT-HOME Count here. 

What is the Christmas Bird Count?

Established in 1900, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is the longest running community science survey in North America. Birds Connect Seattle has coordinated the Seattle CBC for over 95 years! Approximately 250 volunteers survey the count circle (15 miles in diameter) centered in downtown Seattle, to identify and count anything with feathers and a pulse. There are 14 sections within the Seattle count circle, each being covered by one or multiple teams of volunteer surveyors. All results are tallied by a count compiler and submitted to the National Audubon Society. The valuable data gathered on wintering bird populations will support important research like the 3 Billion Birds report and other scientific publications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to be an expert birdwatcher to participate?

Anyone can participate in the Christmas Bird Count, either as part of an In-Field team or as an At-Home Counter! While it is important that all teams have birders with intermediate to advanced skill to conduct a scientifically valid count, most teams will also have room for beginner birders as well. Please be honest in your registration, and be flexible on your team placement.

When is it?

This year the count will take place on Sunday, December 17, 2023. Count teams meet at around dawn (with some teams listening for owls in the pre-dawn darkness) and continue counting until late afternoon. On the evening of the count, CBC participants converge to compile the initial species list for the day at a Virtual or In-Person CBC Gathering. (Details TBD) There is always a surprise sighting or two! 

WANTED: At-Home Counters/Feeder Watchers

Don’t want to, or can’t leave the warmth of your home? Only have a spare 30 minutes available? Have a young family that wants to take part? If your home is within the Seattle CBC circle you can still take part in the count by reporting the birds that visit your bird feeders and yard. Simply register for CBC as an “At-Home Counter/Feeder Watch Participant.” Check out this map to ensure your feeder and yard are within the Seattle CBC circle boundary.

Live in an apartment or condo? You can still participate! If you have any vegetation or nature space on the property, you can count there too!

Don’t have a feeder? Despite the name, you do not need a bird feeder to participate in Feeder Watch. Simply count the birds that visit or fly over your yard.

Find instructions and tips on how to conduct your count and record your observation on this Feeder Watch Datasheet – 2022. Follow this link for a Full Species List. Once you’re finished with your data collection for the day, submit your data HERE.

How do I submit my Feeder Watch data?

Please submit your data using the online datasheet found hereIf you have any questions, please reach out to the CBC Coordinator. Completed paper datasheets can also be turned in at the CBC Potluck, or hand delivered to the Nature Shop. To ensure inclusion with the rest of the CBC data, please submit your data to Birds Connect Seattle as soon as possible after the count (ideally within 3 days).

Can I bring my children?

Though we would love to have participants of all ages on the CBC, the field count option is not the best fit for children. For this reason, we encourage all families with children to register for the Feeder Watch option. This option is a valuable source of data that is otherwise missed by the Field Counters, and adds to the overall data set collected on the day. 

How much does it cost?

The CBC is a free program. However, Birds Connect Seattle kindly asks you to donate the traditional $5.00 fee to BCS to fund work like our community science projects. Simply add your donation during the CBC registration process or click the “Donate” button on the top left of this page.

What should I bring on the day of the count?

Dress for the weather! Surveyors will go out, rain, shine or snow. Layers are strongly encouraged with a waterproof jacket and/or pants. Warm hats, socks and gloves are a must. Some areas require more walking, others more driving, so please wear appropriate footwear. Fluids, snacks and a sack lunch are also important. Some binoculars are available to borrow for the count. Please contact the CBC Coordinator to request a pair of loaner binoculars. 

CBC Potluck

Update for 2022: We have yet to decide whether we will be hosting an in-person gathering. Please check back in November for an update!

Once the count is complete, volunteers can gather with other leaders and counters at the CBC Potluck to listen to the preliminary species results over a bowl of warm soup. The Potluck will take place at the Wedgwood Presbyterian Church in NE Seattle (MAP).

Wedgwood Presbyterian Church
8008 35th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115

Doors open at 4pm if you’d like to warm up a little early; the potlucks end at 7pm. Potluck attendees are asked to RSVP during their CBC registration and indicate whether they will bring a dessert, salad or willing to help set-up or clean-down after the potluck.

Other Resources

Seattle CBC – 2021 Final Tally Sheet lists all the bird species that are potentially encountered during the Seattle CBC – updated November 2021

Other Christmas Bird Counts in Washington State (approx. 36 total taking place annually all over the state, Dec 14 through Jan 5)

National Audubon Christmas Bird Count (learn more about the history and run a custom analysis of the CBC data!)

View online map showing all 2,400+ count circles

Past Media Coverage

Seattle Audubon’s Christmas bird count draws fans of all levels, from newbies to sighting superstarsChristy Karras, Seattle Times Magazine, February 15, 2019

Nature is still everywhere: Bird counters find wonder amid Seattle’s towers, dog parks and playfieldsLynda Mapes, Seattle Times, January 1, 2018

People, birds meet for annual Christmas tally” Maddy Lauria, Seattle Times, December 30, 2017

Tips for Beginner Bird WatchersCaroline Craighead, Seattle Magazine, December 2017

Tallying winter’s wings: cormorants, crows, mallards and moreAlan Berner, Seattle Times, January 2, 2017.

Seattle Audubon to hold Christmas Bird CountMadeline Mckenzie, Seattle Times, December 18, 2016.

Pikes/Pines – Capitol Hill’s Christmas Bird CountBrendan McGarry, Capitol Hill Times, December 21, 2014.

Christmas bird countColin Ditz, Seattle Times, December 28, 2013.

Seattle bird lovers stroll out for Christmas countEmily Heffter, Seattle Times, December 31, 2011.

The Nerd Issue: Seattle’s Beloved Geek Festivals” (Outdoor section) Anna Samuels, Seattle Magaazine, February 2011

Christmas Bird Count is bird-watchers’ annual delightLynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times, December 21, 2009.

Birders scan treetops and underbrush in an annual count that began 108 years agoCraig Welch, Seattle Times, December 30, 2007.

Search Seattle Times archives for “Christmas Bird Count

Two Mourning Doves: The Christmas Bird CountWeekday with Steve Scher on KUOW. Aired December 26, 2007 at 10am.

Crunch of boot, flash of feather, call of “PISHHHHH” at annual bird countNancy Bartley, Seattle Times, December 31, 2006

Questions? Media inquiries?

Count Contact: Hanae Bettencourt, Education Manager,
Media Contact: Ellie Yamanaka, Community Engagement Manager,