Count the Birds this Christmas

Think beyond swans a-swimming, geese a-laying, calling birds, french hens and turtledoves this year—join the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, spot as many species as you can and do your part for citizen science this year.

NOVEMBER 29, 2018—The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running wildlife census in the world. Each year, observers tally millions of individual birds, reporting hundreds of different species to the database. The 119th annual count kicks off on Friday, Dec. 14 and runs through Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019—and there are numerous opportunities to take part in the Tennessee Valley. TVA employees and the public can sign up for as many counts as they wish—no birdwatching expertise is required.

cardinal on a branch in the snow

The annual count is a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society, with over 100 years of citizen science involvement. It is an early-winter bird census, where thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada and many countries in the Western Hemisphere go out over a 24-hour period on one calendar day to count birds.

The bird counts are conducted within established 15-mile circles all over the country. Most circles in the TVA region contain some TVA-managed lands. Volunteers sign up for a particular count, then spend that day within the circle, noting all the birds they see.

All counts will be held between now and Jan. 5.

“There is a specific way to do it,” explains Damien Simbeck, watershed representative with TVA Natural Resources. “Anyone can take part—you just need to sign up in advance. Volunteers follow specified routes through the circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a count of any specific type of birds—all birds are counted all day. And don’t worry if you’ve never done this before—if you are a beginning birder, you’ll be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher.”

Simbeck is an official compiler for a count in Savannah, Tenn., and participates in another count in Alabama, both of which contain large TVA parcels. There are many other counts that include portions of TVA-managed land.

Volunteers who aren’t able to walk the routes may still be able to participate.

“If your home is within the boundaries of a bird count circle, then you can stay at home and report the birds that visit your feeder on count day,” said Simbeck. “You just need to arrange it ahead of time with the count compiler.”

Click here to find the map of circles. Click on a circle to bring up information on how to join.

Get Up Close and Personal with the Birds

Registration is now open for the Wings of Winter Birding Festival, to be held Jan. 18-20, 2019, in and around Paris, Tenn. TVA is a sponsor of the event, which offers birdwatchers rare opportunities to see over 150 migratory bird species in their natural habitat.

Tours will take birdwatchers inside the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge to see thousands of wintering waterfowl up close. There will also be a tour of Kentucky Lake in an excursion yacht that will cruise beneath eagles, waterfowl, gulls and more.  

TVA properties will be highlighted during Saturday’s trip to Kentucky Dam, with visits to Livingston County Park, Sledd Creek and Hickory Park dispersed recreation areas. A Sunday trip to TVA’s Harmon Creek Management Unit will be co-led by festival guest speaker Richard Crossley. Some field trips are already filled, so register soon.

TVA, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and many other organizations help support the festival.

For more information or to make reservations for the Wings of Winter Birding Festival, visit