MANATEE -- Those taking part in the 113th annual Christmas Bird Count are among tens of thousands of volunteers from Alaska to Antarctica who will spend part of their holiday season in the wild counting birds.
The international wildlife census starts in Manatee County today with about 40 volunteers counting in a circle 15 miles in diameter, with downtown Bradenton at the center, according to Dick Comeau, who is slated to compile the results.
Two other areas locally also are slated for official counts, one Jan. 3 covering Anna Maria Island and Cortez, Perico and part of Longboat Key, while another on Jan. 5 will cover parts of Sarasota, officials said.
Myakka River birders did their count Dec. 17, officials said. Each of the citizen-scientists who annually brave the elements to take part make an enormous contribution to conservation, since the data is used to assess the health of bird populations and to help guide conservation action, birders said. "It's part of a citizen science project organized by the National Audubon Society and Cornell (University)," said Jeanne Dubi, president of the Sarasota Audubon Society.
"They count every bird they see, submit to a coordinator, and it goes to national Audubon database."
The count proves a "good snapshot" of the state of the birds, she added.
The national Audubon web site is at www.aubudon.org.