Skip to main content

HomeChristmas Bird Counts



Christmas Bird Counts are censuses of all birds (all individuals and all species) found in a defined area on a given count day. The count provides population data for use in research and conservation efforts.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, this year’s our Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) will require a few changes to comply with local and state rules. 

Option 1: Run a COVID-19 safe and socially distanced CBC, if local rules allow. We must wait until November 15th at the earliest to decide if this option is viable.
Option 2: If option 1 is not possible, we will cancel this season's CBCs for our locations.
If we determine we can safely run our CBCs, below are the guidelines from National Audubon that we are urged to follow:
1. Wait until November 15, at the earliest, to confirm the CBCs will take place, if local regulations allow.
2. Cancel all in person compilation gatherings. We will hold pre- and post-count Zoom compilation meetings.
3. Social distancing and/or masking are required at all times in the field.
4. Carpooling may only occur within existing familiar or social "pod" groups.
5. Activities must comply with all current state and municipal COVID-19 guidelines.
If we feel it is not safe to move forward with our CBCs, we will choose option 2 and cancel this year's CBC. Please know that Audubon fully supports the decision to cancel.  The health and safety of compilers and community scientists will always be our top priority.
More information will be coming in October, and around November 15, we will assess the COVID-19 situation in our local communities and make the determination whether to cancel.  If it is safe to continue, we will then schedule one or more Zoom pre-count compilation meetings with participants.

Mariposa Christmas Bird Count:
The Mariposa CBC has been cancelled this year due to Covid-19.

Yosemite National Park Christmas Bird Count:
Date to be determined
Please email Sarah Stock at to get information about times and locations for this count.    

Oakhurst Christmas Bird Count:
Currently scheduled for Saturday, January 2, 2021.
Please email Vern Johnson at to get information about times and locations for this count.

Yosemite Area Audubon Society members and friends are enthusiastic participants in the Christmas Bird Counts each year. The counts are part of the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, an annual avian census held between December 14 and January 5.

Begun on Christmas Day in 1900, this event is now the longest-running wildlife survey and the oldest citizen-science project in the world. Ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed this annual bird count as an alternative to the traditional “side-hunt,” a competition for hunters to shoot as many birds as they could kill on Christmas Day.

Chapman’s brainchild has grown from its original 25 locations, mostly in northeastern North America but including Pacific Grove in California, to more than 2,100 counts ranging from the Arctic to South America. Twenty-seven hearty souls participated in the first count; today volunteers number in the tens of thousands, all of them helping amass data that collectively inform scientists of bird population trends and patterns and, in turn, decisions by the agencies responsible for bird conservation.

Like all Christmas Bird Counts, each of the three local tallies (Mariposa, Yosemite, and Oakhurst) takes place within a fixed 15-mile-diameter circle established by the count originators. The compiler selects a date within the prescribed window of time for the count. On that one day participants, assigned to specific zones, fan out inside the circle to cover the area as widely as possible and to count all the birds observed and identified. At the end of the day the results are compiled for submittal to National Audubon.

National Audubon president and CEO David Yarnold has commented, “The Audubon Christmas Bird Count harnesses volunteer power to gather knowledge that shapes conservation policy at enormous scales in this country. I couldn’t be prouder of the 60,000-plus volunteers who contribute each year….”

Christmas bird counts are among a number of citizen-science projects that engage members of the Yosemite Area Audubon Society, the local chapter affiliate of the National Audubon Society and its state affiliate, Audubon California, in bird conservation and in habitat protection, restoration, and education. YAAS invites area residents to discover the fascination and fun of birding by attending its monthly programs, participating in monthly field trips and getting involved in some of its exciting projects.

Participation in all counts is free, and all are welcome regardless of birding experience.

Mariposa Count Circle
The count circle, ranging in elevation from less than 1,000′ to about 3,500′, mirrors the predominantly rural character of Mariposa County. About 30% of the area comprises large ranches of several hundred to upward of 1,000 acres, and national forests constitute about 20% of the area. An estimated 95% of the private properties within the circle are a minimum of 5 acres in size. Habitats include montane mixed-conifer/oak woodland dominated by ponderosa pine, incense-cedar, and California black oak (25%); blue oak/valley oak/live oak/foothill pine woodland sprinkled with grassy rangelands (40%); blue oak savanna (5%); chaparral with a mix of chamise, manzanita, scrub oak, and Ceanothus spp. (25%); and riparian (streams and ranch ponds bordered by willows, alders, cottonwoods, cattails, reeds, and many perennials) (5%). Shrubs and wildflowers of many species splatter all of these habitats. The mosaic of habitats and the biodiversity, particularly within the blue oak woodland, is acknowledged as one of the most biologically diverse and productive in California. The diversity and abundance of birds consistently produce significant numbers of species and individuals within the circle area.

For more information about the Christmas Bird Count, including data and results, visit the National Audubon Society's CBC page.