RAPID CITY, S.D. — This year marks the 121st Audubon Christmas Bird Count, and bird lovers in Rapid City took part in the annual tradition. The event is a nationwide movement that calls bird lovers to grab binoculars and count the birds they spot. It is the 68th year for birders in Rapid City, who navigate a 15 mile radius around Dinosaur Hill. Michael Melius, who has been bird counting since the 1980’s, says the tradition was birthed as a way to impede the killing of birds.
“It started as part of the campaign to stop having people kill birds for their hats and it was just ‘let’s do something else’. People used to go out and just shoot birds around Christmas time, so let’s do something else, let’s go out and count birds,” said Rapid City Bird Count Coordinator Michael Melius.
The lack of precipitation, he believes, may be the cause of the decrease in bird sightings this year.
Melius added, “Some of the open country birds aren’t around this year for some reason. We’re not seeing things like Jays and Sparrows around.”
55 to 60 species are spotted every year in Rapid City, with over 120 species being spotted overtime. For some, bird watching is a passion.
“It’s exciting to see a new bird in a new place for the first time, or see an old friend, like an old visitor, pass by – whether it’s the Belted Kingfisher or a flock of geese,” said Birder Lora Morgenstern.
Birders are asked to report back how many birds were spotted, how long it took to spot them, as well as the length of their drive or walk. All official counts will be held through January 5, 2021.