Get ready for backyard bird count

by | January 29, 2007 12:00 am

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) returns for its tenth season February 16-19, 2007. The National Audubon Society, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, and the Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (DNR/WRD) invites everyone to count birds with a buddy throughout Georgia this winter.

Bird enthusiasts of all ages can share their love of birds with a friend, a child, a scout troop, a class, or a co-worker – opening new eyes to the joy of birding and the fun of creating a unique snapshot of winter bird abundance and distribution across the continent. Every pair of eyes is needed and every bird counts, whether in a backyard, on a high-rise balcony, in a park, or on any of the 730 million acres of public lands.

“In 2006, Georgia ranked 8th in the GBBC with total number of checklists submitted – 2,507 lists,” said Tim Keyes, WRD wildlife biologist. “Birders young and young-at-heart documented 213 species and over 232,000 individual birds across the state. People often wonder what concrete steps they can take to help wildlife. This is a great opportunity for birders of all skill levels to contribute data to nationwide monitoring which is an important component of bird conservation efforts.”

Participants throughout the United States and Canada sent in more than 60,000 checklists in 2006, with 623 different species and more than 7.5 million birds counted. These millions of sightings generate what would be impossible otherwise—continentwide information about where the birds are located and how their numbers compare with those of previous years.

Everyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to seasoned experts. During the count, bird watchers tally up birds for as little as 15 minutes, or for as long as they like, keeping track of the highest number of each bird species they see together at one time. People are encouraged to report birds from public lands and local parks, as well as from their backyards. Participants enter their numbers online at www.birdsource.org/gbbc and can explore sightings maps, lists, and charts as the count progresses.

“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a community celebration of birds, birding, and nature,” said Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “We often fail to notice how rich our surroundings are, but counting birds, even for just 15 minutes, is not only educational it can provide a lasting source of enjoyment, turning a daily walk into a treasure hunt.”

“We are encouraging people to go outside and count birds for the first time this year,” said Paul Green, Audubon’s director of Citizen Science. “By submitting their counts online, birdwatchers can quickly see how the dots they put on the map form new patterns that tell new stories about the birds that share the world in which we live, including our own backyards and parks.”

For nearly a decade, the GBBC has kept tabs on the ever-changing patterns of birds in winter. How far north will American Robins be reported this year? Will Sandhill Cranes migrate early or late? Introduced Eurasian Collared-Doves have been turning up in new states—where will they be this year? Native Red-bellied Woodpeckers have been spreading to the northeast—will the trend continue? Scientists also want more information on declining species, such as Rusty Blackbirds. While this species is suffering due to the continued destruction of their preferred habitats, other factors, such as mercury accumulation in Rusty Blackbirds may make a bad situation worse.

“This project has become a major source of scientific information about North American bird populations,” said Dr. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. “It is a classic example of the vital role citizens and the Internet now play in understanding our planet.”

Participants who want to hone their bird watching skills can learn more from the Great Backyard Bird Count web site at www.birdsource.org/gbbc, which offers identification tips and access to photos, sounds, maps, and natural history information on more than 500 bird species. People can also submit photos to an online gallery showcasing the dazzling array of winter birds found during the GBBC. Competitions add another element of fun, including a photo contest, rankings for most numerous birds, and the coveted “checklist champ” title for towns, states, and provinces with the highest participation. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a free event, sponsored in part by Wild Birds Unlimited. To find out how you can promote the GBBC in your town and download a free 2007 poster, visit www.birdsource. org/gbbc.

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