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Count birds instead of staying inside this winter

Backyard Safari

Monday, December 05, 2011

Media contact: Jessica Basham

One, two, three, four: cardinals, finches and chickadees. How many birds can you count in your backyard this winter?

While you may not hear their boisterous whistles and tweets like you do in spring, birds are still in your backyard. Your yard may look gloomy and dull this time of year, but there are bright spots, or feathers, to see! In fact, many species of birds are just arriving from as far away as Canada. It is migration season, when many of our feathered friends travel to the warm state of Florida to escape the frozen, snowy north.

What might you see bustling and flitting around your yard? Well, you might set your sights on a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a migratory woodpecker that gets its name because of the holes it bores into trees to "suck" the sap out of the bark.

Or you might see an American goldfinch or chipping sparrow. Although their colors are duller in the winter, goldfinches are still easy to spot through bare branches and brown leaves because of their yellow feathers, black wings with white markings and cone-shaped bill. The chipping sparrow is a robust little bird with a rust-colored "cap" on its head. It must love to be heard because it sings loudly from high, outer limbs of trees. Chipping sparrows like feeders too, if you have one.

Counting and viewing birds is as easy as walking out your back door and looking in your trees, bushes or at your feeder. Make it a family event and take mom or dad outside with you.

Things to have handy: binoculars, bird guides and checklists to keep track of the kind of birds you see and how many you count. If you plan to be outside for a long period of time, take a blanket to sit on and a cup of hot chocolate!

You can also join the FWC's Wings Over Florida program or become a Junior Birder by visiting FloridaBirdingTrail.com and selecting "Birding Resources" in the left-hand menu; then click on "Wings Over Florida." That is where you can learn about the Junior Birder Program and download a copy of the Bird Detective checklist.

Another opportunity to count birds in your backyard happens Feb. 17-20, 2012. The yearly Great Backyard Bird Count is the largest bird count in North America. This event helps scientists learn things, like how winter weather influences bird populations, how this year's migration compares with last year's, and what kinds of birds are in cities and rural areas. For information about this upcoming event, visit http://birdsource.org/gbbc.

So don't become part of the gloomy winter season, Get Outdoors Florida! and go count birds!



FWC Facts:
Turkeys are powerful fliers, especially for short distances. Their wings are designed for short, fast flight, but by alternating gliding and flapping, they can cover a mile easily.

Learn More at AskFWC