A bald eagle in Wrangell. (Katarina Sostaric/KSTK)

A bald eagle in Wrangell. (Katarina Sostaric/KSTK)

Wrangell residents will have the opportunity next month to participate in the country’s longest-running citizen science bird project.

On Dec. 19, local birders will join the National Audubon Society’s 116th Christmas Bird Count. It’s a bird census that looks at how many birds, and what bird species, are living in different areas.

The Wrangell bird count circle has its center at Shoemaker Bay and includes the area about 7 miles in all directions from that point.

Local birder Bonnie Demerjian is encouraging more Wrangell residents to get involved so that the count can cover more ground.

“Counters would go out with a check sheet of the birds most likely to be seen,” Demerjian said. “And given a route, you would count every bird that you see.”

Demerjian said that information will be sent to the National Audubon Society and combined with bird counts from all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico. She said it enables scientists to observe trends in bird populations and changes in bird habitat.

“It just gives a lot of wide-ranging, long-term information, which can be used for planning other studies and for possible conservation efforts,” Demerjian said. “And it enables many many thousands of eyes to gather more data than just a scientist on his own can gather.”

She said people who are new to birding can be paired with more experienced birdwatchers during the count.

“Because our bird area covers a lot of the waters around Wrangell, some of us will be going out in boats as far as the eastern shores of Etolin and Woronkofski and the back channel, and as much land area as we can cover,” Demerjian said. “Right now, we don’t really have enough people to do all the land routes that we’d like.”

Wrangell residents can even get involved in the Christmas Bird Count by watching their backyard bird feeders.

Citizen scientists can also contribute to data collection by participating in a feeder watch that goes through the entire winter and by joining a backyard bird count in February.

Anyone interested in participating in the Christmas Bird Count in Wrangell or other birdwatching activities should contact Bonnie Demerjian at 874-3665 or bonniede@aptalaska.net.