A bluebird carries the sky on his back

National Christmas Bird Count begins this week and runs through January 4th. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman proposed a new holiday tradition—instead of engaging in bird and animal hunts, revelers at country homes should conduct a "Christmas Bird Census" that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.

Thanks to Chapman and the enthusiasm of 27 dedicated birders, 25 Christmas Bird Counts were held that day all the way from Toronto to California, with the majority in northeastern North America. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined.

Today, tens of thousands of people participate in the bird count. The data collected by observers over the past century allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

You can participate too. The National Audobon Society has a map of locations in Virginia that will be hosting counting efforts this year. The link below will take you to their website and show you a map of the locations. Find one near you and start a new Christmas tradition.