If you can spare 15 minutes this weekend, you can help scientists learn about birds by participating in The Great Backyard Bird Count. It’s easy enough that even the most amateur bird watchers can help, and it’s educational enough to make it a great family or classroom activity.
I will be the first to admit that I know little about birds. I would rather dig in the dirt than watch or feed birds. However, I am a sucker for a good cause, so I am going to dig out the bird book and support the bird-counting event this weekend.
Researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are interested in the distribution and migration patterns of birds nationwide. Bird populations move and change constantly, making them difficult to study. This informal census is helping scientists to gather information and track changes to bird populations. The National Audubon Society works with the Cornell Lab to make The Great Backyard Bird Count happen, and additional support is provided by Wild Birds Unlimited.
Bird counting is a great excuse to take the kids, the dog or yourself to the park, but counting in your own backyard or neighborhood is fine, too.
To participate in the bird count, plan on at least 15 minutes out of your day on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Count birds for longer periods of time or on more than one day if you wish. Identify different species of birds and write down what you see (15 house sparrows, 3 cardinals, etc.). Then, sometime before March 1, go to the official bird-counting Web site, www.birdcount.org, and enter your results. If you do not have Internet access, please stop by the Extension office at 2110 Harper St. to pick up a form that can be mailed to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The only thing you might need to participate is a simple bird identification book. There are also some good bird identification Web sites. My favorite is Wikipedia’s “list of Kansas birds.”
Last year, more than 85,000 bird count checklists were submitted nationwide, and more than 9.8 million birds were counted.
Photographers might also be interested in the Bird Photo Contest. More details are at the bird-counting Web site mentioned above.
Educator materials and participation certificates also are available.
Get out and count some birds this weekend!
— Jennifer Smith is the Douglas County Extension Agent – Horticulture for K-State Research and Extension. She can be reached at 843-7058.