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January 20, 2014

People urged to take part in bird count

ITHACA — From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, bird watchers from more than 100 countries are expected to participate in the 17th-annual Great Backyard Bird Count, which takes place Feb. 14 through 17.

People anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at www.BirdCount.org.

The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada.

“People who care about birds can change the world,” Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham said in a news release. “Technology has made it possible for people everywhere to unite around a shared love of birds and a commitment to protecting them.”

Last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count shattered records after going global for the first time, thanks to integration with the eBird online checklist program launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab and Audubon.

Participants reported their bird sightings from all seven continents, including 111 countries and independent territories.

More than 34.5 million birds and 3,610 species were recorded— nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species documented in just four days.

“This is a milestone for citizen science in so many respects —number of species, diversity of countries involved, total participants, and number of individual birds recorded,” Cornell Lab Director John Fitzpatrick said in a statement.

“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.”

Bird Studies Canada President George Finney said Canadian participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count has increased tremendously in recent years.

“The count is introducing unprecedented numbers of people to the exciting field of bird watching,” he said.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is is free and easy to take part in. To learn more, visit www.birdcount.org. You can also view the winning photos from the 2013 photo contest at that website.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible, in part, by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

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