President's Day weekend starts the 10th annual Great Backyard Bird Count under the leadership of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. The dates for this year's count are Feb. 16 to 19. No fee or registration is necessary to participate, and you can count anywhere you want at home, at a park, in the forest or at the lakes.
The guidelines for participating are very simple: Watch and identify the birds for a minimum of 15 minutes on any or all of the days, and then report your results at www.birdsource.org/gbbc.
If you've never been on the Birdsource Web site, I highly recommend it. In addition to a lot of information about North American bird species, there also is an online photo gallery with wonderful pictures submitted by participants in this past year's Great Backyard Bird Count.
If you don't have access to the Internet and would like to participate, just bring your checklist by Jay's Bird Barn any time that weekend or the following week, and we will submit the information for you. As we have done in previous years, we will have an Arizona bird checklist, which you can pick up for free in the days before the count, where you may record your observations. I invite you to stop by and pick up a copy of the checklist.
Having a copy of the checklist may be helpful, as all of the correct bird names are listed there. This past year, there were several occasions where individuals reported birds that no longer exist because the species was re-named several years ago. For example, someone might have reported seeing a rufous-sided towhee, but it is important to know that that this species is now called a spotted towhee.
The goal of the Backyard Bird Count is to identify as many different types of birds as you can and record how many you see of each species.
Be careful not to double-count. If you are counting in the same area all day, you should take the highest number of birds observed at any time during the day. For example, if you see six 2hite-crowned sparrows in the morning, then you see 10 later in the day, you should record 10 for the day, not 16.
The 10 most commonly reported species for North America in this past year's Great Backyard Bird Count were the Northern cardinal, mourning dove, dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, downy woodpecker, blue jay, house finch, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee and Amer-ican crow.
The spotters submitted 60,616 checklists and reported more than 7.5 million birds of 623 different species.
On another note, I will be teaching a class at Yavapai College in February and again in April titled "Attracting Wild Birds to Your Yard." Course material will cover the key elements of attracting wild birds to your yard, including the importance of native landscaping, how and what to feed, the importance of water, and nesting boxes.
The class also will cover basic information on bird identification, and we will take a field trip to the homes of individuals in the Prescott area who do an amazing job of attracting a variety of birds to their yards using the techniques taught in the class. For more information on the class, call the college at 717-7755 or drop by Jay's to pick up a flier.
If you have specific questions or issues related to wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, you can submit them to Jay's Bird Barn, 1046 Willow Creek Road, Suite 105, Prescott, AZ 86301 or log onto www.JaysBirdBarn.com and click on Ask Eric, which will link you with my e-mail address, Eric@JaysBirdBarn.com.
Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, a backyard wild bird store located in the Safeway/K-Mart shopping center on Willow Creek Road. He has been an avid birder for more than 40 years.