Niagara Gazette

February 14, 2014

'Backyard Bird Count' starts Friday

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count will take place Friday¬†through Monday.

All bird watchers are invited to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days and report their sightings online.

The purpose of the Bird Count is to help track the health of bird populations on a global scale. The count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada.

In North America, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, count participants' data may help define the magnitude of a dramatic irruption, or sudden increase in population, of snowy owls. Bird watchers will also be on the lookout for the invasive Eurasian collared dove to see if it has expanded its range again. Observations may help show whether American crows are continuing to rebound after being hit hard by the West Nile virus, and whether more insect-eating species are showing up in new areas, possibly due to climate change.

The 2013 Great Backyard Bird Count saw more than 34.5 million birds and 3,610 species recorded. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, that's nearly one third of the world's total bird species, documented in four days.

"This is a milestone for citizen science in so many respects," Ithaca -based Cornell Lab Director John Fitzpatrick said. "We hope this is just the start of something far larger, engaging the whole world in creating a detailed annual snapshot of how all our planet's birds are faring as the years go by."

For more information about joining the count, go to www.birdcount.org.