Friday, November 18, 2011

Snow Birds

The Dark-eyed Junco featured in today's Springfield News-Leader was my mother's favorite bird.  It shows up in late fall and hangs around the bird feeders until spring.  Although not particularly dramatic in appearance, its feisty little hops and struts make for outdoor entertainment through the window on a blustery winter day.

The article states that "The bird is common throughout its range, although some studies show it could be experiencing a slight decline because of habitat changes in its nesting range."  How do they determine that there is a slight decline in a common bird species population?  This was a good question to ask Charley Burwick, the Springfield Master Naturalist bird brain in residence.

He tells me that in addition to biologists that study specific species, much of the data comes from citizen scientists like you and I.  Country wide counts conducted yearly can compare the numbers of all species seen.  If there is a trend of declining numbers of a species compared to other common birds, this provides good information on the population in general.

Here are the major surveys which involve birders.
The sites above also show past results which can be used to determine regional and national trends.  While some bird species are in decline, the birders numbers are trending upward.  They can be spotted by their binoculars, their posture with their necks thrown back, their constant movement and the characteristic excited cry, "There is another (fill in the blank)!!"

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