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A Service employee in uniform uses a small booklet to help students identify birds.
Information icon Ana Castillo-Ruiz teaches young birders how to identify a little blue heron. Photo, Ira Rappaport, FWS volunteer

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge hosts inaugural Christmas Bird Count for Kids

What could be better than spending a morning outside, taking in the fresh air, and looking for birds on a national wildlife refuge?

On Dec. 30, 2017, the first Christmas Bird Count for Kids took place at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in south Florida. The original Christmas Bird Count is an annual bird survey organized by the National Audubon Society, attended mainly by adults and birding clubs. The counting tradition began more than 100 years ago and is one of the oldest wildlife surveys in the world.

About 50 local residents and visitors from as far away as northern California were excited to take part in the new twist on the tradition, the Christmas Bird Count for Kids.

The day began with a binocular boot camp and field guide orientation, showing participants how to identify birds by color, size, behavior, and habitat. Youngsters then selected birding team names and headed into the field with birding team leader experts. Their assignment was to count and record species of birds for 90 minutes on assigned routes with special bird checklists.

Upon returning, teams tallied their count numbers and gave a final presentation of their results. After traveling a little over three miles, the four teams counted a total of 83 birds representing 29 species. The results from the kids’ count will be uploaded to eBird and submitted with the totals for the annual Christmas Bird Count.

The Christmas Bird Count for Kids is a great way for families to get out and enjoy nature, have fun in the outdoors, and learn more about birds they can also find in their own backyards. This event was made possible through ongoing partnerships with the Everglades Audubon Society, Friends of Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, and several U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteers.

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