They fly, swim, and even look good in pictures. These beautiful creatures can be seen soaring high in the sky or dipping low to feed from the water. But there has been a decline in the amount of feathers that fill our skies or waddle on our land. Has it seemed like there are fewer chirps in the air? One in eight birds are at risk of becoming extinct; but with citizen science projects such as The Great Backyard Bird Count there is a chance to uplift their wings.
The Anita Purves Nature Center is hosting The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) event on February 18 from 9am-4pm at 1505 N. Broadway Ave, Urbana, IL 61801. All ages are welcome with adult supervision. The main goal of the event is to get as many people as possible to count birds.
So why does this matter? Why should we care how many birds there are? Scientists analyze the data collected from the bird count in order to learn about bird populations. Birds help keep the ecosystem in balance by pollinating plants, dispersing seeds, and recycling nutrients back into the earth. And if all birds were to go extinct, insects would consume more of our crops, and predator species would struggle to thrive.
The Audubon Society is an organization that advocates for the safety of birds. The nature center is working with the Champaign County Audubon society to host the event where local Audubon members will be helping people with basic bird identification.
The event will include fun bird activities for all ages; such as bird nests and bird artifacts for visitors to enjoy. There will be bird watching from the Wildlife Observation Room and two guided hour-long hikes through Busey woods at 10am and 3pm. The center is also working with the local Girl Scout troop 2113 from Urbana to plan a special activity for the event.
The GBBC was launched in 1988 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. This event has flown across the world with participants in more than 130 countries. In 2016 alone, according to birdcount.org, 5,689 species of birds were counted on more than 162,000 checklists.
Environmental Public Program Coordinator, Savannah Donovan, commented on the event by saying, “We want to help out the nationwide initiative to get a good tally of how many birds... But I really want people who participate to have fun and get excited about bird watching, and maybe learn a little bit about different types of birds. At any of our nature center programs we want to make sure people are really having fun and enjoying nature.”
There are many different bird counts that Audubon society members and bird enthusiasts can participate in throughout the year. If you just can’t get enough then check out the Christmas Bird Count or Project Feeder Watch, which are other citizen-science projects focused on bird conservation.