Rio Grande Valley’s 124th Audubon Christmas Bird Count set to begin

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A least bittern chick peeks through the reeds at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. The 124th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count begins Dec. 14 in the Rio Grande Valley. (Rick Kelley | Valley Morning Star)

Those birds aren’t going to count themselves, which is the reason for the annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count, happening Dec. 14 through Jan. 5.

The all-volunteer citizen science project, now in its 124th year, is open to anyone of counting age: Valley residents, Winter Texans, tourists, serious birders and those just getting into birding.

The count will take place over eight days, each day devoted to a specific area, each 15 miles in diameter. It begins Dec. 14 with the Coastal Tip, which encompasses Laguna Heights, Laguna Vista, Port Isabel and South Padre Island south to the Rio Grande. Next comes the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge area, consisting of Alamo, Hidalgo, Pharr, McAllen, San Juan and Sharyland.

Participants are free to count birds from the comfort of their own yards as long as it’s within one of the designated areas.

The 124th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count begins Dec. 14 in the Rio Grande Valley. Shown is an Inca dove, a common resident of South Texas. (Courtesy: Anita Westervelt)

“If you have a yard full of birds in a count area, invite a team,” organizers said. “They may be able to visit on count day. … Novice birdwatchers are encouraged to join a team. Extra eyes help spot birds for the experienced birders to identify (and) the more novice birders get valuable experience in bird identification and habits.”

The annual bird count dates back to when officers of the newly established Audubon Society decided to take a census of birds rather than hunt them for sport. The Christmas Bird Count goes from Arctic Bay in Canada, east from St. John’s and Ferryland in Newfoundland, west to southern Guam, and from northernmost Alaska down through Canada, the United States, Mexico and South America all the way down to Drake Passage in the South Atlantic.

Contact a count-team leader at one of the email addresses listed below to join a team, find out if your property is within a designated count area, and receive a list of birds to be counted, specific dates and other relevant information. Sign-ups are already underway. The last day of birding counting takes place in Brownsville on Jan. 5.

Count area contacts include: Coastal Tip, [email protected]; Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, [email protected]; Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, [email protected]; Bentsen-Anzalduas, [email protected]; Harlingen, [email protected]; Falcon Dam and State Park, [email protected]; Weslaco, [email protected]; and Brownsville, [email protected].

For further information about the Audubon Society Christmas Bird County visit