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New Hampshire’s annual Backyard Bird Count is coming up

  • Northern cardinal perched on a branch during light winter snow

  • Two black-capped chickadees perch in a shrub in Olmsted Falls, Ohio Friday, Jan. 8, 2010. Another blast of winter weather is forecast to bring additional snow to Ohio's lake shore areas Friday and into the weekend. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Concord Monitor
Published: 1/25/2020 10:48:13 PM
Modified: 1/25/2020 10:48:00 PM

CONCORD — A long-running program that keeps an eye on wild bird populations in New Hampshire by counting which species come to people’s homes will be running again soon.

New Hampshire Audubon’s Backyard Winter Bird Survey, which dates back to 1987 in its current form, asks people to sign up and keep track of how many birds of what type arrive — or don’t — to their bird feeders on a particular weekend. Reporting a lack of birds is just as valuable as reporting crowds of birds, the group says, because it can alert biologists to population swings.

“If everyone reported only when they have a lot of birds, we wouldn’t be able to see the declines,” Rebecca Suomala, survey coordinator, said in a news release. “The survey shows us how natural phenomena influence the ups and downs of bird populations.”

Consider black-capped chickadees, which were at a record low in 2018 and bounced back a little in 2019 but are still of concern. There’s no obvious reason for their decline, but 30 plus years of data from the survey shows a lot of variation in their population.

Then there are evening grosbeaks, which were common in the state through the early 1990s “but have been largely absent from feeders for the last decade,” according to the group. Last year’s count included more of them than any other since 2008, and biologists are eager to know if that is the start of a rebound or was just a fluke.

Using backyard bird feeders to keep an eye on populations of certain types of birds is a well-established tradition. The National Audubon Society runs a similar event called the Great Backyard Bird Count, which often overlaps New Hampshire’s event. Cornell University also runs Project Feederwatch, which gathers bird counts from feeders throughout North America all winter long, not just in backyards but in public areas such as nature centers.

The oldest citizen-science birdwatching program is the national Christmas Bird Count, but it doesn’t depend on feeders. Instead, it sends volunteers to specific locations.

New Hampshire Audubon started the survey in 1967 while trying to get a handle on southern birds such as cardinals that were starting to show up here, moving north as winters warmed.

New Hampshire Audubon says about 1,500 people participate in the state each year.

The Backyard Winter Bird Survey will take place Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 8 and 9. To receive a copy of the reporting form and complete instructions, e-mail your name and address to bwbs@nhaudubon.org or call 603-224-9909. Forms are also available online and at NH Audubon centers in Auburn, N.H., and Concord. Find more information about the survey at www.nhaudubon.org under Get Outside-Birding.




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