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The Christmas Bird Count is an incredible cultural success story and the largest citizen science annual event in the world. First held on Christmas Day in the year 1900 as an alternative to the devastating “Side Hunt” tradition, today this nationwide birdwatching event provides essential data for scientists studying the health of bird species across North America.

More than that, the Christmas Bird Count is a lot of fun for people of all ages! The Sonoma Valley count, led by Gene Hunn and the naturalists of Sonoma Ecology Center, includes a highly diverse array of habitats, making it one of the best inland counts in the United States, ranking in the top tier of counts every year. All people are welcome, from expert birders to beginners, in order to serve as counters, spotters, drivers and hikers.

This year’s Sonoma Valley bird count takes place on Friday, Dec. 28, at locations around the Valley. The all-day event is followed by a dinner featuring a live tally as well as stories and highlights from around the count area. For more information or to sign up, contact compiler Gene Hunn at or at 707-981-7301. For more on local Christmas Bird Count events (which take place on different days), click here.