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A bizarre holiday tradition

December 15th, 2016 · No Comments · Books, Children, Events, News, Teens, Trustees

In the late 19th century there was an unusual holiday tradition called “The Christmas Side Hunt”.  The object of the hunt was to see who could shoot the most birds and small animals on Christmas Day. It was a very popular event and fiercely competitive.

The Audubon Society had recently been formed and one of their members, a young ornithologist named Frank M. Chapman (1864-1945), suggested replacing the Hunt with a “Christmas Bird Census”, counting birds rather than killing them.

The first Bird Count was conducted in 1900. There were 27 birders in 25 different locations or circles from Ontario to California who recorded seeing around 90 different species of birds. The birds were counted in the field, in the woods, and at bird feeders. In 2015, there were 59,039 birders in the United States alone, counting birds at 1902 different circles.  The birders recorded seeing around 50 million birds!

This year’s Christmas Bird Count begins on December 14, 2016 and ends January 5, 2017. For more information on the history of the Side Hunt or to find out how you can participate in this year’s count, you may visit

Should you wish to have birds in your own backyard, the library has a good selection of books that will help you to do that. Here are a few suggestions:

Audubon backyard birdwatcher: bird feeders & bird gardens by Robert Burton

Backyard bird identification guide by Jerry G. Walls

The complete backyard birdwatcher’s home companion by Donald S. Heintzelman

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