Citizen scientists to count millions in North American bird tally
The Great Backyard Bird Count, which transforms everyday citizens into scientists, begins Friday.
Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 11:46 AM
BIRD WATCHING: Last year, binocular-toting enthusiasts throughout North America made a record 97,331 checklists that spanned 603 species consisting of 11.2 million individual birds. (Photo: Nati Harnik/AP)
HADLEY, Massachusetts - The Great Backyard Bird Count begins on Friday, turning everyday citizens into scientists and transforming a walk to the subway or a glance out the window into a data gathering experience to tally millions of birds in North America.
Bird lovers devoted to counting the flock in neighborhoods, parks or wild terrain are asked to report their sightings online at www.birdcount.org, said John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York. The 14th annual event is organized by Cornell, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada.
Participants in the United States and Canada can tally birds for as little as 15 minutes, or as long as they want, from February 18-21.
Last year, binocular-toting enthusiasts throughout North America made a record 97,331 checklists that spanned 603 species consisting of 11.2 million individual birds.
"The power of the ordinary citizen with a few minutes of observation to supply information that is of that continental scale is amazing," Fitzpatrick said.
Ornithologists aren't quite sure what to expect for this year. Among the trends that will be tracked by this midwinter count is the dramatic spread among Eurasian collared doves. Introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s, the species was found in just eight states in 1999. A decade later, it was reported in 39 states and Canadian provinces.
Americans' growing interest in birds and concern for their survival has kept them in the news this year, Cornell's Fitzpatrick said.
The public has followed recent reports of bizarre bird sightings, such as when 5,000 red-winged blackbirds fell one night from the Arkansas sky, later tied to startling New Year's Eve fireworks, and a wayward Cooper's hawk's weeklong visit to the Library of Congress's reading room in Washington, D.C.
(Reporting by Zach Howard; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)
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