/ Modified dec 31, 2015 1:04 p.m.

Bird Watchers Look to Arizona Skies for Annual Count

National Audubon Society enlisted citizen scientists across the country for survey.

Yuma Audubon Spot Nancy Meister, president of the Yuma Audubon Society, leads a Christmas Bird Count team near Imperial Dam. (PHOTO: Amanda Solliday - KAWC)

By Amanda Solliday, Arizona Science Desk

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For more than a century, the National Audubon Society has enlisted citizen scientists across the country and abroad for a holiday bird survey. This year’s count started Dec. 14 and runs through Jan. 5.

On a recent chilly Saturday morning, the Yuma Audubon Society focused on a 15-mile circle around Mittry Lake.

Water from the Colorado River attracts birds to the area as part of the Pacific Flyway, a major route for migratory birds.

Nancy Meister, president of the Yuma chapter, said consistent counts help answer questions about long-term shifts in bird populations.

“Are we losing birds? Are we gaining birds?" Meister said. "Are they changing in terms of latitude? Are they not coming down as far south or are they heading more north?”

At the end of the day, the Yuma teams inventory the birds during dinner.

The results for that one Saturday's count were low, Meister said, with 835 birds and 48 species. Typically, the teams will identify thousands of birds and more than 100 species.

The tally will be added to the international Audubon survey.

The Arizona Science Desk is a collaboration of public broadcasting entities in the state, including Arizona Public Media.

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