National bird count starts today

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It's time to grab those binoculars and bird books and head for the back yard. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithica, N.Y., wants you for their annual Great Backyard Bird Count. The count starts Friday and ends Monday.

Families, individuals, classrooms and community groups are also invited to count the numbers and kinds of our feathered friends they see during any or all of the four counting days. Participants can count in their back yards, local parks, nature centers, or even at the office.

"This is the fifth year of the count and we couldn't be more excited," said Frank Gill, Audubon's senior vice president for science. "We're in the midst of a major invasion of sorts. Many bird species that typically spend the year in Canada and the extreme northern United States are moving into regions farther south. With help from bird lovers everywhere, we'll be able to see which species are where."

The count has been collecting data about the vast majority of North American birds since 1998. More than 100,000 people have participated and their reports have led to some interesting findings.

Distribution of the American Robin and Red-Winged Blackbirds relate directly to snow depth and winter Finches are rare but on the rise.

Participants must count the highest number of each bird species seen at one time and keep track of the amount of time spent counting. Then log onto the Bird Source Web site at and click on the appropriate state or province for a checklist of the most frequently reported birds in that region.

The survey form asks a few other questions, including the habitat where the observation was made and researchers are especially interested in the snow depth data.

Complete instructions for participating are available at the Web site Click on Great Backyard Bird Count.

There's no fee or registration. People who do not have Internet access are asked to try their local library.

Anyone interested in serving as an "ambassador," -- local experts who also help promote the count -- can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, N.Y, 14850, or call (800) 843-2473. The Audubon Society can be reached by calling (212) 979-3083 or writing to 700 Broadway, New York, N.Y., 10003-9562.

The count is a project of the Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology with sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.


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