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For The Birds: Christmas Count Kicks Off This Weekend

Julia Ritchey
Tracy Aviary Conservation Scientist Cooper Farr identifies gull species in Liberty Park ahead of the annual bird count.

Tracy Aviary's Cooper Farr is standing in front of Liberty Park pond. It's mostly empty and only a few birds are hanging out, but Farr, a conservation scientist, has no trouble naming them.

“Right now we are looking at some gulls that are in the water, it looks like some ring-billed gulls and California gulls," Farr says. 

Farr is preparing for the 118th annual Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, when volunteers and experts across the valley will go out and count every bird species they hear or see in a 15 mile-wide circle.

For over a hundred years, volunteers have helped scientists gather data about birds and their habitats during the annual event. 

“We expect to see all sorts of birds," she says, "including the ones you might see in your backyards like house finches, American ravens, house sparrows, European starlings to some more exciting birds, I think, like Townsend’s solitaire, pine siskin, wood houses, scrub jay.”

It may seem like the survey is only for experts, but Farr says everyone can participate. And even though a lot of volunteers are indeed “hardcore birders,” beginners are more than welcome.

“That’s the great thing about the Christmas Bird Count, each team has at least one leader, usually more, that really know their bird identification and know how to do the methods of the survey," Farr says. "So you can show up and be a total beginner, not know anything, and just learn a lot from the people who are doing the count.”

Farr says tens of thousands of people are expected to participate all across the U.S., Mexico and Canada from now until Jan. 5. The results will be submitted to the National Audubon Society, the nonprofit environmental organization in charge of the count.

It’s important to keep doing these counts, Farr says, to identify patterns and keep track of their movement.

“So that can be used to help conserve birds in their habitats, that can be used to look at trends and populations to identify potential environmental problems so it can be really important just to help with the  conservation of our birds.”

Tracy Aviary will also have a program for kids in Liberty Park. Experts from Tracy Aviary and Great Salt Lake Audubon will be on hand to help them identify and count birds.

For more information about the different bird count circles in Utah visit: 

Salomé Moynot is from Paris, France. She moved to the U.S in the summer of 2014 to study at Southern Utah University. She fell in love with radio while hosting a show in college called "The French Hour" on Thunder 91.1 in Cedar City. After getting her degree in Communications she moved to Salt Lake and joined KUER as a weekend host and, more recently, as a news intern. In her free time, she loves to watch cheesy romantic comedies and complain about the food she misses from France.
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