Friday, January 20, 2006

Prizes in 2006 Great Backyard Bird Count

Want to win recognition for helping scientists learn about birds' winter distribution and numbers?

For the Great Backyard Bird Count on Feb. 17-20, localities can receive accolades for submitting the most checklists, recording the most species or counting the most birds. Individuals can win a photo contest of images taken during the event and posted to the gallery.

During the Presidents' Day weekend next month, please participate in the ninth annual count by tracking birds anywhere in North America, not just in back yards. For one day or all four days, record the number of each species at your feeder, in a city park, at a nature preserve or in a national wildlife refuge and contribute to a national effort to study birds.

Organized by National Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the citizen-science program includes folks of all ages and birding abilities. Participants can find checklists for their appropriate areas, download tally sheets, count on one day or all four days, and then enter their observations online.

Why should you bother? The data that everyone enters allows scientists to look at the birds' distribution and numbers during winter. For instance, last year's GBBC revealed the northwest expansion of Eurasian Collard-Dove, with 59 birds in Idaho. Your efforts will provide ornithologists with a snapshot of the birds' movements and status.

Speaking of snapshots, don't miss the gallery of photos submitted by previous GBBC participants. I especially liked the Gyrfalcon. The detailed captions are informative and occasionally fun.

Last year's most commonly reported species were (in order):
1. Northern Cardinal
2. Mourning Dove
3. Dark-eyed Junco
4. American Goldfinch
5. Downy Woodpecker
6. Blue Jay
7. House Finch
8. Tufted Titmouse
9. American Crow
10. Black-capped Chickadee

Any of those surprise you? I thought that House Sparrow would be more common.

Which species will appear in this year's Top 10? And who will win the prizes in this year's new competitions?

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