Need Plans for Valentine’s Day Weekend? Count Birds with Your Lovebird

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020, 4:48 pm
By: 
Emily Joan Elliott

Calling love birds and bird lovers! The Great Backyard Bird Count kicks off this Friday, Valentine’s Day, and runs through Monday, February 17. By participating in this citizen-science project, you can help our feathered East Lansing neighbors get on the map.

What makes the Great Backyard Bird Count a “citizen science” project? Through it, ordinary people share data they have collected for scientists to use. Bird populations migrate annually and fluctuate in numbers, and the data submitted helps provide a more vivid picture of the global bird population.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society organized the first Great Backyard Bird Count in 1998, asking residents of North America to spend 15 minutes monitoring the birds that appear in their backyards. Today, more than 160,000 people from 100 countries participate annually.

Local residents do have a history of contributing to this bird census. Ingham County residents submitted over 150 counts last year.

Wild Birds Unlimited, located at the corner of Coolidge and Lake Lansing Roads, has been promoting the count by sending notice to their customers. According to co-owner Sarah Zarka, count participants can keep track of birds they see in their yards between doing other activities indoors.

The Great Backyard Bird Count provides a toolkit to get started, including instructions, tally sheets, and bird lists. After tallying the species of birds seen in your backyard, you can submit your results after creating a free account here.

The data updates almost instantaneously, allowing people to see real-time results.

Scientists hope this data will help them understand how phenomena like climate change and urbanization affect birds. Zarka of Wild Birds Unlimited notes that human interaction with the environment in East Lansing has made life more difficult for birds. They have lost important food sources and can be harmed by pesticides, such as chemical weed-killers.

But East Lansing residents can also help bird populations. Putting birdseed out adds to the available food supply, while birdhouses and birdbaths provide pitstops for migrating birds. Most helpful, however, Zarka emphasizes, is avoiding pesticides.

 

Photo by Jim Pivarnik.

Want to do more for the wild birds who live in and travel through East Lansing? Check out this ELi article that explains what steps you can take to help.

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