Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend, people all over the United States and Canada will be participating in the 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This year, the GBBC runs Friday, February 18th, through Monday, February 21st.

Sylvan Heights is happy to welcome local students who will be counting our native birds at the park on Friday at 10 a.m. And we invite all of you to come out and visit us this weekend.

Our location has attracted a wide variety of bird species over the last few years, including pileated woodpeckers, prothonotary warblers, yellow-rumped warblers, bald eagles, red-shouldered hawks, and many, many more. Just a few weeks ago, a small group of sandhill cranes were seen regularly around the park.

The four-day count takes place every February, and averages 10 million bird observations. People of any age can participate and no experience is necessary. Contrary to its name, you do not have to count birds in your own backyard, but can elect to count them anywhere - at a local park, school, etc. The project itself is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

First, participants commit to counting birds for at least 15 minutes during one or more days of the count.

Second, during your count, you record the highest number of birds of a single species (i.e., 5 cardinals, 8 house finches, 2 chickadees, etc.) that you see at one time.

Last, submit your data by going to the website and entering your checklist.

A joint effort between Cornell University and the Audubon Society, as well as Bird Studies Canada, this Citizen Science Project is a valuable tool for scientists studying local bird populations. The data recorded help them to monitor the effects of changing weather patterns or diseases on bird populations, compare migratory behaviors to previous years, and monitor "irruptive" species (birds that appear in great numbers some years and not in others).

To learn more about the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit their website at http://www.birdcount.org/.  It has a wealth of information and includes games and activities for kids like puzzles, coloring pages and bookmarks. You can also learn more about birds, flip though their photo gallery, and even see last year's bird count results.

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