More than 2,500 birds spotted in annual Christmas count
December 21, 2014
Steamboat Springs — More than 2,500 birds of 41 species were identified Saturday during the annual Audubon Christmas bird count.
The birds were counted across a 15-mile radius area around Steamboat by 27 volunteers who were split into groups, each led by an experienced birder.
"It's a very comprehensive effort," said Tom Litteral, a member of the Yampa Valley Birding Club and one of the event’s organizers. "It's very challenging."
The count is one of many happening under the watch of the National Audubon Society, which will give the data collected in Steamboat to scientists studying bird populations, Litteral said.
"We did quite well," he said.
In total, 2,517 birds were counted Saturday morning.
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"That's pretty incredible for a 15-mile area," Litteral said.
The highest number of birds spotted in the eight years of doing the Christmas count was about 3,200 last year, he said.
Volunteer birders were joined by volunteers from the Yampa Valley Birding Club and Yampatika to do the count.
"We were delighted to see a number of experienced birders," Litteral said.
Birders were divided up and sent to several zones around town, including one at Steamboat Ski Area.
Birders do their best to count every bird they can find during the hunt, Litteral said.
The most plentiful bird was the sharp-tailed grouse, a medium-sized prairie grouse spotted 93 times Saturday. Litteral said the number was high for the area.
A few unexpected birds also were found, including the green-tailed tohee, the hooded merganser and the Western scrub-jay, all of which were unexpected in the snowy Steamboat climate during this time of year.
Though Steamboat was only participating in its eighth hunt, it was the 115th annual Audubon hunt, according to the National Audubon Society website. Other counts are happening across the country between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.
Data from the count and about 2,300 other counts across the country will be posted on http://www.birds.audubon.org.