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Help Protect America`s Birds

Pioneer Web-based Count Spotlights WatchList Birds and West Nile Virus…

Sixth Annual Great Backyard Bird Count Needs Volunteers, Birdwatchers To Help Protect America`s Birds And Habitat:All across the Americas, birds face survival challenges from loss of habitat to introduced predators to diseases like West Nile Virus. The Sixth Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 14-17, will focus on the effects of these threats, bring conservation home by telling participants what they can do to help, and add vital new information to understanding of the birds and their environment.Once again, the National Audubon Society and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology call on volunteers of every age and skill level to make the Count possible. We need every birder to join us, said Audubon Senior Vice President of Science Frank Gill. The Great Backyard Bird Count has become a important means of gathering data to help birds, but it can`t happen unless people take part. Whether you`re a novice or an expert, we need you to take part and help us help birds.Audubon and Cornell are asking participants to pay special attention to the more than 200 species on the Audubon 2002 WatchList, issued last autumn, which lists North American birds in danger or decline. WatchList is an early-warning system designed to raise awareness of birds in trouble, before they become endangered or threatened, explained Audubon`s Gill. Think of it as preventative medicine, protecting our great natural heritage. The GBBC website http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc includes features on these birds and what participants can do to help them.The GBBC will also focus on the effects of West Nile Virus on crows and jays, owls, raptors and other birds, and will educate participants about the disease. We need as many volunteer counters as possible to tell us what they see, said Sally Conyne, Audubon Director of Special Projects. The GBBC can serve to educate people about the real effects of the disease, and will help our scientists reach a better understanding.The GBBC combines high-tech web tools with an army of citizen-scientist bird observers. The Count asks families, individuals, classrooms, and community groups to count the numbers and kinds of birds that visit their feeders, local parks, schoolyards, and other areas during any or all of the four count days. Participants enter their sightings at the website. The state-of-the-art website was developed by Audubon and the Cornell Lab. GBBC is sponsored in part by Wild Birds Unlimited stores.Begun in 1998, the GBBC has engaged more than a quarter-million Americans of all ages and backgrounds, and united them in the effort to keep common birds common. In 2002, more than 47,000 participants counted millions of birds throughout North America, helping reveal information on Evening Grosbeaks, Snowy Owls, Collared Doves, and many other birds.When the last Ivory-billed Woodpecker was seen in the 1930s, there was no concrete way for citizens to help professional ornithologists monitor bird populations, says Cornell Lab of Ornithology Director John Fitzpatrick, who this past year led an expedition to rediscover the Ivory Bill, possibly North America`s rarest bird. We cannot allow other species to face the same fate as the Ivory-bill. The Great Backyard Bird Count provides a way for citizens to help us determine which birds are where, and in what numbers, so we can take steps to protect those that need protecting.The GBBC site invites beginners and experts alike to participate, providing useful information to make participation easy and enjoyable. There is a vocabulary section, bird-watching and bird-feeding tips, bird vocalizations, and more, including information about House Finch eye disease. Educators will find the bibliography and geography sections especially handy as well as suggestions on how to conduct the Count with groups of children. For those tired of winter and ready for spring, there will be tips about planning and preparing for the spring bird garden.Instructions can be found on the website. There`s no fee or registration. Those who would like to participate but aren`t online can try their local library, and many Wild Birds Unlimited stores accept reports. Libraries, businesses, nature clubs, Scout troops and other community organizations interested in promoting the GBBC or getting involved can contact Sally Conyne at Audubon, at 215/355-9588, ext. 16; or the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at 800/ 843-2473.[NB The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution interpreting and conserving the earth`s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centres and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.]

4th July 2014