The annual National Audubon Christmas Bird Count began regionally Friday at Big Oak Tree State Park in Mississippi County.
Counts will continue Dec. 27 at the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, Dec. 29 at the Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area and Dec. 30 at Trail of Tears State Park.
Nationally, more than 55,000 volunteers are participating in nearly 2,000 individual counts between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.
Many of the birds in this year's count are produced in the North American boreal forest extending from Alaska to Eastern Canada. Boreal species commonly seen on Christmas Bird Counts appear to be declining. These include the belted kingfisher, the northern flicker, the white-throated sparrow, the white-crowned sparrow, the purple finch, the pine siskin and the rusty blackbird.
Audubon will analyze the status and trends in the count to see how these species are faring.
The count occurs in all 50 states, every Canadian province, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies and Pacific islands. About 73 million birds were counted last year.
Counts are open to birders of all skill levels. For more information about the local counts, phone Bill Eddleman at 651-2171 or 335-1507.