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Queens Chronicle

Great Backyard Bird Count needs you!

Annual Avian census is for the birds — and you

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Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2012 12:00 pm

Calling all men, women and children! The birds of North America need you to participate in the 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, set for Feb. 17 to 20. It’s not complicated — you don’t even need binoculars or an expensive field guide.

The event is a joint project of the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. The idea is to record the numbers and types of birds seen to give scientists information on migration and population patterns. And everyone is invited to participate.

Here’s what you do: Count birds in your backyard, a park or anywhere in Queens for at least 15 minutes. If you want to do it for more than one day, you can submit a separate checklist for each day.

Count the largest number of birds of each species you see together at any one time. To make it easier, the sponsoring organizations have devised a regional bird checklist to print.

When you’re finished, enter results through the event’s web page, at birdsource.org/gbbc. Click on the button that says “Enter Your Checklists.”

For those new to birdwatching — or birding as it’s called today — there’s a video on the website that will get you started. And there are some prizes just for entering, including bird feeders, binoculars and field guides.

Last year, New York was first with 5,817 entries submitted, followed by Ohio with 5,093. In total, participants turned in 92,218 lists, reporting 594 species and more than 11.4 million individual birds.

The most frequently reported species in the United States were the northern cardinal, mourning dove, dark-eyed junco, downy woodpecker and American goldfinch. The most numerous birds were the European starlings, American robins, common grackles, Canada geese and red-winged blackbirds.

Looking for something more exotic? Try a visit to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge via the Visitors’ Center in Broad Channel, off Cross Bay Boulevard. The refuge is considered the most important bird sanctuary in the Northeast, and you’ll see plenty of water fowl and perhaps some early migrators traveling through.

The Queens Botanical Garden at 43-50 Main St. in Flushing is holding a Great Backyard Bird Count outing on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Shari Romar, new media manager at the QBG, will lead the birders.

Romar pointed out that the facility is home to red-tailed hawks, robins and pheasants, among others. The joint list from the walk will be submitted to the count.

“QBG is the perfect backyard for this annual event,” she said. “This is our third year so I’m excited to see what birds we find and compare our numbers with other locations.”

Romar, who goes on birding trips with her husband, noted that the Audubon Society holds a similar bird count at Christmas every year as well, which she said gives experts a look at birds after they’ve migrated for the season.

“This year, it’s been a warm winter so more birds are on the move,” she said. “It should be interesting to compare from last year.”

The QBG staffer, who handles the garden’s website and social media, said the bird count project is wonderful because anyone can do it. “It’s great for kids to get interested and learn about birds,” Romar said.

To register for the QBG event, email sromar@queens botanical.org or call (718) 886-3800, ext. 213.

Don’t have a backyard? There are lots of places you can visit to conduct your bird count. Parks are a good start.

Don’t overlook Alley Pond Environmental Center at 228-06 Northern Blvd. in Douglaston. It’s a birder’s delight — it’s possible to spot everything from water fowl to owls to a family of red-tailed hawks. The center is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except for Feb. 19 and 20, when it’s closed.

If you get hooked on birds after participating in the count, you might check out a meeting of the Queens County Bird Club. It meets monthly, except in the summer, at the environmental center. For more information about the group’s activities, go to qcbirdclub.org.

‘Great Backyard Bird Count’

When: Feb. 18 at 10:30 a.m. with the Queens Botanical Garden, or Feb. 17-20 anytime.

Where: anywhere in Queens

Information: birdsource.org/gbbc/

queensbotanical.org/programs/events

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