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Backyard birders sought for annual count

Published: Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 7:19 a.m. CST

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The activity of filling feeders and watching birds will take on a scientific meaning through Monday, as thousands of people across the country will count and report birds for the 16th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count.

Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, the event seeks birdwatchers – experienced and novices – of all ages to report their findings. St. Charles resident Jerry Hope, a member of Kane County Audubon, will be one of the backyard bird counters.

“I would say this is a premier citizen scientist activity because the collection of data is used to measure bird population shifts,” Hope said. “It gives a lot of data from all over, across the whole nation, and you can measure a trend.”

Kane County Audubon members will show participants how to count and record their findings from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, St. Charles. Though the bird count already will have begun, novices can learn what data is being sought and how to report their findings of species and numbers and participate that day and Monday.

Volunteers who report backyard bird counts can spend as little as 15 minutes on one day or count for as long as they want over the four days of the project, according to the Great Backyard Bird County website, www.birdsource.org.

Last year, volunteers provided 17.4 million individual bird observations to ornithologists, scientists who study birds, according to the website’s data.

“There are 93,000 people across the U.S. who participated,” said St. Charles resident Bob Andrini, president of Kane County Audubon. “Last year, in Kane County, 136 checklists from volunteers in 13 cities sent data in.”

Audubon and researchers at Cornell also collect information from the Christmas Bird Count and the Spring Bird Count, he said.

“The backyard bird count is typically done at this time of year because populations are not migrating,” Andrini said. “They are where they are going to be for the winter.”

For the first time, the bird count is open internationally, in the hopes of getting even more information worldwide on bird populations.

Hope said the data collected will show bird population shifts, species that decreasing and others that are increasing. It also will measure bird populations moving farther north because of global climate change, he said.

“I’ve seen 72 bird species in or from my backyard over the years,” Hope said. “I’ll get chickadees, cardinals, nuthatches, two or three different woodpeckers. It’s amazing how many birds you can see in a backyard here in Illinois.”

Great Backyard Bird Count

What: Volunteers to count backyard birds Saturday through Monday.

Why: To report bird population data to Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon.

Learn how: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, 3795 Campton Hills Road, St. Charles.

Cost: Free.

For information:

• Great Backyard Bird Count: www.birdsource.org/gbbc.

• Kane County Audubon: www.kanecountyaudubon.org.

• Illinois Audubon Society: www.illinoisaudubon.org.

• Cornell Ornithology Lab: www.birds.cornell.edu.

• What Bird: www.whatbird.com.

• American Birding Association: www.aba.org.

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