AR: Join the Great Backyard Bird Count Feb. 17-20

LITTLE ROCK – Warmer temperatures and lack of snow in parts of
North America are setting the stage for what could be a most
intriguing 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, coming up Feb.
17-20.

Bird watchers across the U.S. and Canada are getting ready to tally
millions of birds in the annual count coordinated by the Cornell
Lab of Ornithology, Audubon and Canadian partner Bird Studies
Canada.

In past counts, participants were most likely to report American
Robins in areas without snow. Will more robins be seen farther
north this year? Will some birds, such as Eastern Phoebes, begin
their migrations earlier? And where will the “Harry Potter” owl
turn up next? Snowy Owls have dazzled spectators as these Arctic
birds have ventured south in unusual numbers this winter–an
unpredictable occurrence that experts believe is related more to
the availability of food than to weather. Earlier this year, a
snowy owl was photographed near Hot Springs and prior to that, one
was found injured in Cleburne County in 2005.

“This count is so much fun because anyone can take part–we all
learn and watch birds together–whether you are an expert, novice,
or feeder watcher,” said Gary Langham, Audubon’s Chief Scientist.
“I like to invite new birders to join me and share the experience.
Get involved, invite your friends, and see how your favorite spot
stacks up.”

Participants count birds at any location they wish for at least 15
minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their tallies
at www.birdcount.org. Anyone can participate in the free event, and
no registration 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. “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.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor
Wild Birds Unlimited.

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