CLEVELAND – If you have 15 minutes free over the next few days, you could help contribute to one of the biggest annual citizen-science projects. Volunteers still are needed in Ohio for the Great Backyard Bird Count, which runs from today through Monday.
Marnie Urso, senior program manager at the National Audubon Society in Cleveland, said there are too many of our feathered friends for scientists and researchers to monitor without help. She said the data collected locally contributes to a better understanding of how bird populations and the planet are changing.
“We suspect that some of those findings will really help scientists trace some of the El Nino effects that occur,” she said. “They’re predicting some unusual weather patterns, and birds throughout history have the ability to tell us what’s happening with our environment.”
Binoculars are not needed, she said, just a good set of eyes and 15 minutes to observe and record the types and numbers of birds in the backyard or at a local park or green space. Ohio residents can register for the bird count online, and then enter their results, at gbbc.birdcount.org.
Ohio’s state bird, the cardinal, is the most commonly spotted bird in North America. If you sit still for 15 minutes, Urso said, you might be surprised at what you find.
“Other ones that folks might see are the dark-eyed junco; you’ll see those at your feeder, feeding on the ground a lot,” she said. “Mourning doves, downy woodpeckers, blue jays, the American goldfinch, house finches; black-capped chickadee, which can be a pretty friendly bird if you’re walking out in the park.”
Last year, volunteers from more than 100 countries participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count and observed more than 5,000 species.
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