Great Backyard Bird Count begins on 2/18

Even if you are a just a casual admirer of those birds you see out your window, 15 minutes of your time between February 18-21 will be a big help to researchers at Cornell University. By participating in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count bird enthusiasts across the continent will be counting birds of more than 600 species and create an instantaneous snapshot of birdlife across the U.S. and Canada for all to see.Anyone can help by tallying birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count. At www.birdcount.org, you can enter the highest number of each species seen at any one time and watch as the tallies grow across the continent. Coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada, the four-day count typically records more than 10 million observations.Last year’s participants reported more than 1.8 million American Robins, as well as rarities such as the first Red-billed Tropicbird in the count’s 13-year history.“This is a fun and educational activity for groups, families or individuals to do,” stated Ave Bauder, the Executive Director of Seneca County Cornell Cooperative Extension. “In as little as 15 minutes you can be part of helping Cornell University and the Audubon Society gain valuable information on the state of our bird population. Just about anyone can look outside and count 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,” Dickinson said. “But the count can serve as an early warning system for worrisome declines in bird populations that result from more widespread problems.” Dickinson said past GBBC counts showed a drop in reports of American Crows since 2003, coincident with some of the first widespread outbreaks of West Nile virus in the U.S. 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.For more information contact Seneca County Cornell Cooperative Extension at 315-539-9251 or visit www.birdcount.org for bird-ID tips, instructions, and past results. The count also includes a photo contest and a prize drawing for participants who enter their bird checklists online.

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