Are You Ready to Count Birds?
February 17-20, 2012 we can all help backyard birds by participating in the Great Backyard Bird count. Coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada, the four-day count typically records more than 10 million observations, including mine.
Birds are important to a garden’s ecosystem. Birds are natural predators, eating bugs and returning nutrients to the soil. When updating my garden, I include bird baths, bird houses and bird feeders to encourage a wide range of birds.
“When thousands of people all tell us what they’re seeing, we can detect changes in birds’ numbers and locations from year to year,” said Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “An isolated event such as the dead birds in Arkansas may be within the range of normal ups and downs for an abundant species like the Red-winged Blackbird. But the count can serve as an early warning system for worrisome declines in bird populations that result from more widespread problems.”
Once ranked among the top 4 or 5 most frequently reported species, crows are still among the top 10 birds reported in the Great Backyard Bird Count but they have dropped in ranking since 2003. This “signal” is consistent with data from the more intensive Breeding Bird Survey, as well as studies demonstrating declines of 50-75% in crow populations in some states after outbreaks of West Nile virus.
Maps from the count have also captured the paths of migrating Sandhill Cranes and recorded the dramatic spread of Eurasian Collared-Doves. Introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s, the species was reported in just 8 states during the 1999 Great Backyard Bird Count. A decade later, it was reported in 39 states and Canadian provinces.
For more information, including bird-ID tips, instructions, and past results, visit www.birdcount.org. The count includes a photo contest and a prize drawing for participants who enter their bird checklists online.
Can you guess which bird species is the one people spot the most in their back yards?