Prior to the turn of the 20th century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas "Side Hunt": They would choose sides and go afield with their guns. The winner was whoever brought the biggest pile of birds and wildlife.
Conservation was in its beginning stages during that time, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, a "Christmas Bird Census" that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them, and so began the Christmas Bird Count.
The Christmas Bird Count is held every year between December 14 to January 5. The data collected by observers during this annual bird count allows researchers, conservation biologists, and interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. Led by experienced Audubon birders, participants will follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. Results will then be sent to the National Audubon Society, where they will be compiled and posted online at www.audubon.org in January.