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Local volunteers in Mitchell join 115th Audubon Christmas Bird Count

Volunteers across the country are braving various weather conditions through Jan. 4 to count birds during the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

On Dec. 27, birders and nature enthusiasts in the Mitchell area will take part in this tradition, many rising before dawn to participate in the longest running wildlife census on the planet.

Each year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count mobilizes more than 70,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,300 locations across the western hemisphere. Data compiled in Mitchell will record every individual bird and bird species seen in the count area.

"Participants enjoy the competition of finding the most species of birds or the excitement of locating a rare species, as well as spending time with friends. If you don't feel like getting out in the field, you can always count the birds at your feeders from the comfort of your home," said Jeff Hansen, Mitchell CBC compiler.

The Mitchell CBC occurs annually two days after Christmas on Dec 27. The first Mitchell count took place in 1957, followed by two counts in 1966 and 1967. After being inactive for 46 years, it was reinitiated in 2013. The first sighting of a house finch in South Dakota occurred in 1966 during the Mitchell count.

Last year's count in Mitchell included 17 field observers and six feeder watchers. The group counted more than 10,000 birds comprised of 47 species. There were also two species seen during count week but not on the count day. The most abundant bird was the red-winged blackbird at 5,700. Rare birds for this time of year included yellow-rumped warbler, brown-headed cowbird and mourning dove.

The count is conducted within a 15-mile diameter circle. The Corn Palace is the approximate center. The circle falls within a square bordered by 402nd Avenue, 245th Street, 417th Avenue, and 260th Street. Only birds seen or heard within this circle are included in the count results.

If you would like to contribute by counting birds at your bird feeder or in the field on Dec. 27, contact Hansen at or (785) 806-6917.