(cont…) Prior to the turn of the last century, “sportsmen” (and the term is used here loosely) back East used to join in a holiday event known as the Christmas side hunt. The group would choose sides, take their guns into the field during the fall/winter migration, and shoot everything they could, totaling up the carnage to determine the winner. Photos of hundreds of dead migrating hawks were circulated and the public became aware of the senseless bloodshed. Members of the newly formed Audubon Society were particularly concerned, and in 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman suggested an alternative activity. He proposed getting the members of the young organization to go into the fields and count the migrating hawks and birds instead of shooting them. This practice was to become the annual Christmas Bird Count.
On December 25, 1900, 27 members of the Audubon Society across North America participated in 25 separate counts from Toronto, Canada, to Pacific Grove, California. These volunteers spent their Christmas Day watching the skies and counted 89 total species with around 18,500 individual birds included. The latest CBC, the 111th annual event of its type, reported 2,215 counts completed with 61,359,451 total birds included. Liberty Wildlife has several participants in this annual event, contributing valuable data to the world bird census.