A free nature program about winter birds will be 10-11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, sponsored by the Hannibal Parks & Recreation Department.

“Winter Birds and Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count” will be at the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center.

The program will be presented by nature educator Gale Rublee and other members of the Mississippi Hills Master Naturalists.

Rublee said the program will focus on winter birds and the history of the Christmas Bird Count and what it reveals about bird populations.

Bird counts and surveys help track bird numbers and aid conservation efforts. On a single day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, birders and scientists across the country and western hemisphere count all the birds seen or heard from before sunrise to after sunset.  On a count, participants go afield for one day and list the number of individuals of each species. The results are compiled by the National Audubon Society.

George Wisdom with the Mississippi Hills Master Naturalist chapter said the date of the count for the area has been set for Dec. 19 at Mark Twain Lake. The count area is 15 miles in diameter.

He said the Christmas Bird Count start on Christmas Day in 1900, when an ornithologist proposed a new holiday tradition of counting birds instead of hunting them. He encouraged anyone interested in participating in the Christmas Bird Count to attend the event Dec. 12.

Hannibal Parks & Recreation nature programs are free but reservations are suggested by calling Hannibal Parks & Recreation at 221-0154 or emailing mlrichards@hannibal-mo.gov.