Warmer temperatures and lack of snow in parts of North America set the stage for what could be an amazing 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, Friday-Monday, Feb. 17-20.
In past counts, it was typical to see robins in places with no snow. This year, robins may be seen in more northern areas while Arctic species such as snowy owls could be seen in southern spots, thanks to food availability and not just weather, according to a Cornell Lab of Ornithology press release.
Coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon Society and Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada, the count encourages novice and experienced birders to count birds at any location for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the event. Tallies are then entered online at www.birdcount.org. No registration or fee is required.
Last year, participants submitted more than 92,000 checklists with more than 11 million bird observations. These data capture a picture of how bird populations are changing across the continent year after year — a feat that would be impossible without the help of tens of thousands of participants.
“This is a very detailed snapshot of continental bird distribution,” said John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in a press release.
“Imagine scientists 250 years from now being able to compare these data with their own. Already, with more than a decade of data in hand, the GBBC has documented changes in late-winter bird distributions.”
To learn more about how to join the count, get bird ID tips, downloadable instructions, a how-to video, past results and more, visit www.birdcount.org. The count also includes a photo contest and a prize drawing for participants who enter at least one bird checklist online.
5 bird-watching tips
If you want to bring birds to your yard, use these tips from Cole’s wild bird seed company, www.coleswildbird.com:
• Enjoy the pastime. Place bird feeders in places where you can readily and frequently see the birds you are feeding.
• Make your yard bird-friendly. Provide birds with habitat, food, water and nest boxes so birds will use your yard year-round.
• Keep the birds safe. Reduce window collisions. Move feeders to within 3 feet of windows to eliminate the number of fatal collisions that often happen as a result of birds feeding near your home.
• Learn to ID them. Use binoculars and a backyard bird guide to learn more about your birds.
• Keep the feeders clean. Feeders should be washed approximately once per month with a solution of 10 percent bleach (one part bleach to nine parts water) by completely immersing feeders for at least three minutes and then allowing them to dry.
5 best bird foods
• Blend of black oil sunflower, sunflower meats, raw peanuts, safflower and pecans for woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals and other small- to medium-size songbirds.
• Suet with a mix of sunflower meats, peanuts, blueberries, cranberries and other fruits for bluebirds, warblers, robins and woodpeckers.
• Thistle seed for goldfinches, purple finches and pine siskins.
• Hot chili pepper oil formula mixed into mixes of sunflower, millet and cracked corn to deter squirrel raids.
• Pure sunflower meats for no messy hulls and beaucoup birds.