The Christmas Bird Count (CBC), one of the longest running citizen science projects in the world, is organized by the National Audubon Society. It was originally started in 1900’s by ornithologist Frank Chapman, who thought it was better to count the birds instead of hunting them on Christmas Day. This year, the Christmas Bird Count will be celebrating its 121st year!

Since 1954, the Nantucket birding community has hosted this event for the island. The entire island is divided up into eight different sections and each one is assigned a team leader.  At the end of the 24-hr period, numbers of all species observed in each section are compiled into one list. The CBC is a fantastic way of getting a quick “snap-shot” of what and how many birds are within a definitive radius in 24 hours, and every bird counts!

Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a proud sponsor of the Nantucket Christmas Bird count, with over 9,000 acres of conservation land which includes prime and rare birding locations. We help to protect many crucial habitats for the birds such as the sandplain grasslands, forests, shorelines, and salt marshes. Many NCF staff members will also be participating in the count by contributing their knowledge and skills. The other sponsors include University of Massachusetts Field Station and Maria Mitchell Association.

Nantucket’s Christmas Bird Count will take place on December 27th, 2020. This year, more then ever, we need the help of the Nantucket community. Normally 40 or more local and off-island volunteer birders would participate in the count, but due to COVID-19 and the travel restrictions, very few volunteers will be coming from off-island. There is a lot of area to cover and we need your help! Birding solo or with your quarantine partners is a great way to get outdoors and enjoy Nantucket’s open space properties while practicing safe social distancing.

Not a birder, you say?  This year, everyone is a birder!

Here’s a couple of ways you can help:

  • Do you have a bird feeder?  We need Feeder Watchers! A Feeder Watcher can just keep track of the birds that visit their feeders within the 24-hr count period.
  • Do you have a favorite conservation property you like to walk? You can volunteer to be a Field Observer of that property and then report your findings.
  • If you are able to dedicate the whole day and enjoy birding you can be assigned to one of the eight sections and help bird all day!
Northern Cardinals, a Blue Jay and a Chickadee
Photo: elenathewise/getty images

We will be adhering to the COVID-19 restrictions stated by the National Audubon Society and will be “canceling all in-person compilation gatherings” this year. Also, “social distancing and masking are required at all times in the field.” We will also be complying with our local COVID-19 guidelines, which may be subject to changes and we will adapt as it gets closer to count date. We will also inform and distribute the latest guidelines to the participants prior to official count day.

Libby Buck birding with Maddy on a Nantucket Conservation Foundation property. Photo: Danielle O’Dell

If you would like to volunteer for the Nantucket Christmas Bird Count as a Feeder Watcher, Field Observer, or be assigned to a section, please contact Edie Ray ( or Ken Blackshaw ( Without the efforts of the compilers, coordinators, and volunteers these Christmas Bird Counts would not be a reality. With all the cancellations of other annual events it’s even more amazing that this can still happen in a safe, socially distanced way.

For more information about the Christmas Bird Count please visit:

For more information from last year’s Nantucket Christmas Bird Count click here

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions and land management efforts.

If you are not already a member, please join us now!