Sixth Great Backyard Bird Count Begins in U.S.

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A similar effort has been undertaken by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which just this week released their list of Birds of Conservation Concern 2002.

It is important to note that seeking rare and endangered species is not the object of the GBBC. The goal is to census America's more common birds to gain a better understanding of their population dynamics.

For example, the Carolina wren is a familiar bird in the southeast. Georgia reported 2,470 Carolina wrens in GBBC 2002, and Atlanta reported 326 individuals, the most for any city. Pairs vigorously defend their territories making more than two wrens in any one backyard very unlikely, so the numbers are believed to be quite accurate.

However, Carolina wrens are particularly sensitive to cold temperatures and severe weather events, and birds at their northern range periodically experience large die-offs that cause the species range to contract, often taking ten or more years for the population to recover. Cornell Lab and Audubon are very interested to see what GBBC 2003 will reveal about the current winter distribution of the Carolina wren.

How can you become a "citizen scientist" and participate in the GBBC 2003?

Participation in the GBBC is totally Web-based. Complete information and instructions are provided at this Web site.

Participants are asked to assist those who do not have access to the Web, or to direct them to computers provided by local libraries or bird clubs. Wild Birds Unlimited is a major sponsor of the GBBC and many stores will provide assistance in submitting count tallies. For more information contact at Wild Birds Unlimited.

After you have submitted your data you are encouraged to check the results section of the Web site and watch as data is posted from across North America. It is very satisfying to know you have been a significant part of the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Mel Baughman, birder, conservationist, author, and publisher, is founder and executive editor of National Geographic BirdWatcher newsletter and contributing editor to National Geographic News. He has birded North and Central America, Brazil, Australia, and much of Europe. As director of special publications at the National Wildlife Federation, he published nature and conservation-related books. Baughman has written numerous articles in national magazines on mountaineering, sportfishing, and birdwatching. He lives in Burke, Virginia.

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