[audubon-news] 7th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count

  • From: "BIANCHI, John" <JBIANCHI@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <audubon-news@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>,<chapter-communicator@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2004 15:50:36 -0500

Contact: John Bianchi


Learn How to Make Your Backyard and Family 'Bird-friendly'
While Contributing Your Time to Bird Conservation

New York, NY & Ithaca, NY, January 20, 2004 - In the United States, an average 
of 2.1 million acres of land is converted to residential use every year.  
Eighty percent of U.S. households have private lawns, more than any other 
country in the world.  This enormous, though often overlooked, habitat is 
crucial in efforts to save North American birds and the natural resources they 
depend upon.  If only people knew its value, and just how easy it could be 
managed by the millions of bird and nature lovers that own backyards, as 
healthy havens for wildlife - and not-so-wild life.

From February 13-16, 2004, bird enthusiasts are invited to take part in the 
Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), a project developed and managed by the 
National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, with sponsorship 
from Wild Birds Unlimited storeowners and the Natural Resources Conservation 
Service (NRCS) of the U.S. government, and with participation from Bird Studies 
Canada for the first time.  During the event, everyone who enjoys birds will be 
able to submit their observations through BirdSource www.birdsource.org 
<http://www.birdsource.org>.  Whether they spend a few minutes or several hours 
counting birds, GBBC participants will help scientists determine the status of 
birds continentwide. At the same time, the project will teach participants how 
to turn their backyards into real, useful habitat for birds. 

"Improving backyards is an important way to create greenways for birds between 
parks and wild areas," said Frank Gill, Audubon's Director of Science. "Yards 
allow for the cultivation of native plants and provide essential sanctuary to 
migratory and resident birds.  Participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count 
gives people a first-hand view of how important bird-friendly backyards are to 
many bird species." 

The purpose of the Great Backyard Bird Count is to track the abundance and 
distribution of North America's winter birds, as a means to ensure that common 
birds remain common, especially during a time when birds face many 
environmental hurdles. "The Great Backyard Bird Count is a terrific way for 
individuals, families, schools, and community groups to contribute to a better 
understanding of birds," says Gill. "Another way is to create healthy backyard 
habitat, especially during this time of environmental challenges that includes 
habitat loss and degradation."

An important step in creating healthy habitats is to become a "bird-friendly 
family." Going on a family bird-watching outing and keeping a yearly list of 
the birds that visit the yard are examples of ways families can become 
bird-friendly. Keeping a pair of binoculars and a field guide handy are 
particularly good for encouraging children to learn more about birds and the 
habitat right around their home. 

"Kids are naturally curious about the environment in which they live, and birds 
are a terrific window into that environment," says John Fitzpatrick, Director 
of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "Because children are the environmental 
caretakers of the future, it's important that we do all that we can to foster 
their interest in the natural world." 

In preparation for the GBBC, participants are invited to visit the web site for 
suggestions on how to become a bird-friendly family.  They are also invited to 
explore the "Audubon At Home" site to learn the best ways to improve the health 
and diversity of their backyards with native plants, water, and other 
wildlife-friendly elements.  By promoting the basic messages: reduce pesticide 
use; conserve water; protect water quality; plant native species; and remove 
exotic pests, "Audubon At Home" seeks to involve everyone in creating healthier 
habitat for birds, other wildlife, and people, too.

Researchers hope that by learning more about the birds and habitats in their 
own backyards, families will decide to become part of Project FeederWatch, a 
winterlong survey of birds that visit feeders.  "FeederWatch data have been 
instrumental in our analyses of winter finch movements and Varied Thrush 
cycles, and have even helped us track a new avian disease, mycoplasmal 
conjunctivitis, or House Finch eye disease," says Fitzpatrick. "We have 
thousands of dedicated FeederWatchers to thank for many new scientific findings 
important for bird conservation." 

Gill adds, "Hand in hand with participating in Great Backyard Bird Count and 
Project FeederWatch, it's important to remember that when we invite birds and 
wildlife into our yards we are responsible for keeping these guests safe from 
man-made hazards."  He points out that more than 100 million and perhaps as 
many as a billion birds are killed each year when they collide with windows.  
Instructions about minimizing window kills, proper placement of birdhouses and 
feeders, keeping house cats indoors, and removing other threats to the health 
and safety of wild creatures will be available to participants and anyone who 
visits the Great Backyard Bird Count web site.  

In addition to offering bird-friendly tips, this year's GBBC will again help 
participants across the continent identify puzzling backyard species, 
especially those that are easily confused with other species like the American 
Tree Sparrow, which to the uninitiated can look much like the more southernly 
wintering Chipping Sparrow.  The site will also explain why some familiar bird 
names have been changed.  For example: the much-loved Rufous-sided Towhee is 
now considered to be two species by the scientific community, the Eastern 
Towhee (in the East) and the Spotted Towhee (in the West).  

As always, the GBBC web site also includes a vocabulary section, bird-watching 
and bird-feeding tips, bird vocalizations, and more, including information 
about Project FeederWatch and House Finch eye disease.  Educators will find the 
bibliography and geography sections especially handy, and there are even 
suggestions on how to conduct the count with groups of children.  

Instructions for participating can be found at www.birdsource.org 
<http://www.birdsource.org/>/gbbc.  There's no fee or registration.  Those who 
would like to participate but aren't online can try their local library.  Many 
Wild Birds Unlimited storeowners, as proud supporters of the count, are online 
to accept reports and, in support of GBBC, are donating a portion of purchases 
made by their customers.  Libraries, businesses, nature clubs, Scout troops, 
and other community organizations interested in promoting the GBBC or getting 
involved can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at 800/ 843-2473 (outside 
the U.S., call 607/254-2473), 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, New York 14850, 
or Audubon at  citizenscience@xxxxxxxxxxx <mailto:citizenscience@xxxxxxxxxxx>  
or 215/355-9588, Ext 16,  Audubon Science Office, 545 Almshouse Road, Ivyland, 
PA 18974.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a nonprofit membership institution 
interpreting and conserving the earth's biological diversity through research, 
education, and citizen science focused on birds.

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat 
that supports them.  Our Citizen Science programs for bird enthusiasts, and 
advocacy on behalf of Important Bird Areas, engage millions of people of all 
ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

#   #   #

Editors, please note:  Reproduction quality electronic photographs of several 
dozen bird species are available from Audubon through the media relations 
department.  Please contact:

Kristy Wright
kwright @audubon.org

John Bianchi

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