Los Alamos Christmas Bird Count

The National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count program is the nation’s longest-running community science project–it has been happening every year since 1900! Los Alamos’ contribution to the CBC started in 1953 but went dormant after only one year. After a lengthy hiatus, the Los Alamos CBC restarted in 2015 and is now an annual event.

For one day between December 14th and January 5th (the date varies year to year), residents of Los Alamos County and visitors to the area form small teams that spend the day hiking outside, identifying and counting every bird they can find within a 15-mile diameter circle that includes most of Los Alamos County. Additional contributors count birds at bird feeders throughout Los Alamos and White Rock. At the end of the day, we all get together for a potluck/pizza party and talk about what we saw and heard.

Information on Upcoming Los Alamos CBC

The 2020 Los Alamos CBC will take place on Saturday, December 19th. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only residents of Los Alamos County are invited to participate this year. Physical distancing and mask use will be mandatory for all field teams. Carpooling will only be allowed within existing family groups. If you would like to participate, contact Mouser Williams (mouser@mouser.org). No birding experience or capability is necessary; every field team has at least one experienced birder who will assist with bird identifications. What we need is more eyeballs to find birds! Come join us.

Below is an interactive map of the count circle and the regions it is made up of.  Some regions have their own page with details regarding trail head locations, best places to go birding, etc. Click on the region and look for a link to more information, or just see the list of region links, below the map.

Links to Region Details

The following region doesn’t currently have a details webpage set up yet:

  • Northern 4WD

The following regions (shaded black in the map above) never get any visitors during the CBC either due to access issues (tribal land) or because they are exceedingly difficult to get to.  There are no region guides for these regions:

  • Bandelier South
  • San Ildefonso North
  • San Ildefonso South
  • San Ildefonso West
  • Upper Guaje

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I sign up?

Currently the Los Alamos CBC compiler, Mouser Williams, handles all registrations for the count. To register, just send him an email (mouser@mouser.org) with the following information:

  • How much birding experience do you have?
  • How much hiking are you comfortable with?
  • Any time constraints on count day?
  • How many people are you registering for (family, etc.)?
  • Any particular areas you’d like to be assigned to or not assigned to?
  • Any interest in skiing/snowshoeing up in the mountains?
  • Any interest in a pre-dawn search for owls?

Do I need to be good at identifying birds to participate?

No. Everyone from seasoned experts to complete newcomers are welcome to participate. Every field team will include at least one experienced birder who can assist with identification of birds. Having more people just means more eyeballs looking in more directions and increasing the odds of finding whatever birds are present. The CBC is an excellent introduction to birdwatching. Newcomers may be surprised to learn that we identify over 75 species of birds each year during the one-day count.

Do I have to hike around in the snow?

No. There will generally be at least one team that does “easy mode” birding within the town of Los Alamos with minimal walking.  Furthermore, if you don’t want to leave the warmth of your home, you can participate as a feeder watcher. All homes in Los Alamos and White Rock are within the count circle and can contribute to the count just by reporting which birds they’ve seen out their windows throughout the count day.

Do I need to commit to a whole day of birding?

No. Some field teams go on epic all-day hikes, but most do shorter excursions.  The easy mode team in Los Alamos does a series of very short stops around town and is the easiest to peel off from if you have other schedule commitments that day. There is no minimum time requirement and you are welcome to depart from a team whenever you needs require it. If your availability on count day is less than an hour or two, then consider being a feeder watcher.  Otherwise, just communicate your time constraints to the compiler when you register and they will get you on a team that fits your needs.

How much does it cost?

The CBC is free! If you’re in the giving mood, consider donating to PEEC, which provides infrastructure that allows the Los Alamos CBC to take place (such as this website!).

What do I need to bring?

If you’re going to participate in a field team, make sure you are aware of the location(s) you will be visiting. The level of physical effort and time commitment varies from team to team. Your team leader should fill you in on this ahead of the count. The weather varies considerably year to year, so it can make gear planning a bit difficult ahead of time. Bring warm clothes with adjustable layers, sunscreen, water, and snacks. If you have them, bring binoculars, spotting scope, and a bird book. If you have a smartphone, consider downloading apps for bird identification (Sibley, iBird, etc.), audio recording, and GPS tracking (e.g. Gaia GPS). If your team is expecting a full day of birding, pack a lunch. If your team is out before dawn, bring a headlamp and even warmer clothes. High elevation teams might be operating in deep snow, so ask your team leader if snowshoes or cross-country skis are appropriate.

When will the count take place?

Audubon’s rules for the CBC state that the count must take place during one calendar day between December 14th and January 5th. The Los Alamos CBC does not take place on the same date each year. The date for each year is selected in order to maximize participation and habitat access. In order to do this, the count is always on a weekend and not during the LANL winter closure (when access to the wetland habitats within LANL is not possible).  In most years, this limits the count to the first weekend of the count. The date is usually selected some time in October after the compilers of the various nothern New Mexico CBCs have had a chance to do their best to de-conflict nearby counts. Once the count date is selected for a given year, it will be posted in the “Information on Upcoming Count” section, near the top of this page.

Is there a downloadable bird checklist for the count?

There is! Click here to download a printable PDF version of the checklist.

Previous Los Alamos Christmas Bird Counts

CBC Number Count Date Species Found Count Week Additions Field Team Members Feeder Watchers Final Report
119 16 Dec 2018 78 10 60 19 PDF
118 17 Dec 2017 90 5 57 13 PDF
117 17 Dec 2016 77 8 45 13 PDF
116 19 Dec 2015 76 3 49 15 PDF
(practice count) 8 Mar 2015 84 4 41 8 PDF
54 27 Dec 1953 31 3 7 PDF

CBC Number is the number assigned to each count by the Audubon Society starting with the first count in 1900.
Species Found is the number of reportable species identified on count day.
Count Week Additions is the number of reportable species found within three days of the count day that were not found on count day.