By Sarah Benal
The Great Backyard Bird Count is February 12-15. Led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the yearly project collects data on wild birds with the help of people around the world. The Bird Count is informative while it celebrates the birds throughout communities. Heartland Conservation Alliance’s Action Areas focus on the species that contribute to the health of the Blue River, including birds like the ruby throated hummingbird and the Prothonotary Warbler. These birds are often not seen in Kansas City until April, but winter is a great time to observe native birds and prepare for the spring arrivals.
The Missouri Department of Conservation suggests placing a birdfeeder outside your house for a chance to get to know the local birds. You can choose any variety of feeder as long as it has:
Good quality seed
Fresh water for the birds to drink and bathe
Shelter for the birds to take cover
Those who are new to bird watching will find winter to be a great learning opportunity. Snow and damp earth provide a canvas for prints and a surface to observe the way birds walk or hop. Bird counters should make note of the differences in plumage against the snowy backdrop and listen for their unique songs in the cold air. Keeping a bird feeder near a home also provides insight not just in what the birds eat, but how they eat it.
Use the Bird Bingo Card found on the Renew the Blue website to track birds this weekend. Some winter birds that may appear in Kansas City this weekend may be:
Clockwise from left: American Tree Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow. Photos courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Different birds enjoy different kinds of seeds and fruit, but most prefer black-oil sunflower seeds. And while birds are adaptable, they have different feeding habits as well. The Dark-eyed Junco often picks up seeds straight from the ground and Cardinals will feed from the ground or a feeder. Most importantly, make sure to keep the bird houses clean. It’s a good idea to wash out a bird feeder every few days to keep birds safe from sickness and bacteria.
The Great Backyard Bird Count can be done alone, but the project is possible through the large community of birders around the world. The health of the wildlife is important for the health of Kansas City and the Blue River. We are all part of nature and need each other for protection. When you participate in the Bird Count, take a picture and post to social media with #renewtheblue so everyone can see the wildlife across the state.