Saguaro National Park is seeking beginning and experienced bird-watchers to take part in a Christmas season bird count at the park’s unit west of Tucson.

The Dec. 16 event — starting at 8 a.m. and ending at noon — is part of the National Audubon Society’s 117th annual Christmas Bird Count. It’s the longest-running citizen science bird project in the country.

“This is an opportunity to get outside and contribute to the national bird count effort,” said Adam Springer, resource management specialist at Saguaro Park. “It’s an effort that will provide information on the status of birds and the status of the habitat.”

VOLUNTEER DUTIES

Springer said volunteers of all ages and experience levels are needed to help spot, identify and record birds seen within the park.

“Volunteers will work in groups of three to five people,” he said. “If we could get five, six or seven groups together, that would be great.”

Participants can choose from a variety of available routes to observe birds — ranging from driving to key observation points or taking short walks on flat trails to completing rigorous uphill hikes. The objective is to accommodate people with various levels of experience and physical ability.

“Each group will gather information on the number of each species seen throughout the day,” Springer said. “After everyone returns, we’ll collect data sheets and compile them” for eventual submission to the National Audubon Society.

Those who aren’t adept at identifying birds can still play an important role, Springer said.

“People can be useful just to spot birds,” he said. “They can call on more experienced birders to identify the birds.”

Taking part as a volunteer is free with paid admission to the park, which is $15 per vehicle.

Springer asked that volunteers call him at 733-5171 so he can arrange groups in advance.

SPECIES TO SPOT

Over 200 bird species are regularly observed in the park’s two districts east and west of Tucson, Springer said.

Among the many species observed in one area of the west unit during last year’s Christmas count are the red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, Gambel’s quail, cactus wren, phainopepla, northern mockingbird, Anna’s hummingbird, Gila woodpecker and black-throated sparrow.

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at dkreutz@tucson.com or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz