How Many Birds Can You Spot?

We can all help backyard birds by participating in the Great Backyard Bird count. Coordinated by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada, the four-day count typically records more than 10 million observations, including mine. "When thousands of people all tell us what they're seeing, we can detect changes in birds' numbers and locations from year to year," said Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "An isolated event such as the dead birds in Arkansas may be within the range of normal ups and downs for an abundant species like the Red-winged Blackbird. But the count can serve as an early warning system for worrisome declines in bird populations that result from more widespread problems."

Birds are important to a garden. Birds return nutrients to the soil and are natural predators, eating unwanted bugs. The most important step you can take toward making your landscape a haven for birds is to stop using synthetic chemicals and switch to all-natural products. This will reduce birds, bees and other garden residents' risk of exposure to harmful chemicals and increase the population of bugs birds have to eat. When you let birds control bug populations, you will find you don't need chemical controls. To participate in the bird count, you'll need a pen, paper and comfy chair. A bird identification book is handy to have but not necessary if you know your birds or have computer access. A pair of binoculars is handy to have, especially if you have a lot of trees in your backyard. To start, make note of the time and in 15 minute increments, write down all birds you see in your yard for that period. Transfer the list of birds you have seen to the Great Backyard Bird Count website. You'll find other interesting information there including bird-ID tips, instructions, and past results. The count includes a photo contest and a prize drawing for participants who enter their bird checklists online.

Can you guess which bird species is the one people spot the most in their back yards?