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PA encourages Great Backyard Bird Count participation

From the Pennsylvania Game Commission

-- Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are encouraging bird and nature fans throughout the state to join tens of thousands of everyday North American bird watchers for the 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), Feb. 12-15.  

A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation. Participants count birds and report their sightings online at www.birdcount.org.

“These types of activities provide the citizen-scientist with an opportunity to help wildlife,” said Doug Gross, Game Commission biologist. “Anyone who can identify even a few species can contribute to the information wildlife managers use to decide where to invest limited resources in land conservation, as well as habitat improvement or protection.
 
Participants are asked to count birds for at least 15 minutes on at least one day of the event and reporting their sightings online at www.birdcount.org. Additional online resources include tips to help identify birds, a photo gallery and special materials for educators.  

Gross noted that bird populations are always shifting and changing. For example, 2009 GBBC data highlighted a huge southern invasion of Pine Siskins across much of the eastern United States, including Pennsylvania.

“Participants counted 279,469 pine siskins on 18,528 checklists, as compared to the previous high of 38,977 birds on 4,069 checklists in 2005,” Gross said. “Failure of seed crops farther north caused the siskins to move south to find their favorite food, which certainly provided Pennsylvania birders with a unique opportunity. This year, people are spotting hermit thrushes, American robins and Eastern screech owls in their backyard.”

Gross also encouraged those submitting reports to the GBBCount website to also contribute bird sightings by registering at Pennsylvania eBird, a birding website managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

To submit sightings, go to the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on “Recreation,” then choose “Birding Home” and select “Pennsylvania eBird.”

Data collected helps wildlife researchers understand the importance of particular locations to birds and bird population trends, information that is critical for effective conservation. These efforts enable everyone to see what would otherwise be impossible: a comprehensive picture of where birds are in late winter and how their numbers and distribution compare with previous years.

In 2009, participants turned in more than 93,600 checklists online, creating the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.

Each year, in addition to entering their tallies, participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest. Many are featured in the popular online gallery. Participants in the 2010 count also are invited to upload their bird videos to YouTube; some also will be featured on the GBBC web site.

Visit www.birdcount.org to learn more.

Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 [outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473] or Audubon at citizenscience@audubon.org or (215) 355-9588, ext 16.

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