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ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — More than 72,000 volunteers in more than 2,400 locations, including dozens across Texas, are expected to participate in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count.

Now in its 116th year, the bird count is the world’s longest-running citizen science survey. Scientists use the data to better understand how birds and the environment are faring and what needs to be done to protect them.

Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold said moving into the digital age is also making a big difference. “New tools, including apps, smartphones and map-based technologies, are making it easier than ever for anyone to be a citizen scientist.”

Last year, Matagorda County-Mad Island Marsh, Texas topped the list with the most species — 234. The same area hold the record for the most bird species ever reported by any U.S. location — 250 were documented in the December 2005 count.

Last year’s count documented snowy owl numbers in above-average numbers for the fourth consecutive year. On a less positive note, northern bobwhite, American kestrels and loggerhead shrikes continued to decline in most regions.

The count runs from December 14 through January 5.

Click here to find a count near you. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels.

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