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Sick of being inside? Get out and help count Michigan birds

Bald eagle: Formerly on the brink of extinction, the bald eagle has rebounded, and hundreds of these birds spend their winter along the Detroit River. Photo by Bonnie Block/Audubon Photography Awards 2017.
Bald eagle: Formerly on the brink of extinction, the bald eagle has rebounded, and hundreds of these birds spend their winter along the Detroit River. Photo by Bonnie Block/Audubon Photography Awards 2017.

If you're sick and tired of being stuck inside during this cold weather, this is your chance to get up and out.

MI Birds is looking for people to help count birds through the winter months.

MI Birds is a public outreach and education program created by Audubon Great Lakes and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Birders and hunters share similar conservation values, but rarely cross paths. MI Birds aims to bridge the divide and deepen all Michiganders’ engagement in the understanding, care and stewardship of public lands that are important for birds and local communities.

Here's where and when you can get involved:

Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count (multiple dates throughout December): Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count is entering its 119th year of existence. Originally created in 1900 by ornithologist Frank Chapman, the CBC replaced an old holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt,” which was how scientists and hunters originally would census an area, shooting everything in their path! Chapman and others established the CBC in an effort to curb bird population declines. Conservation efforts have grown tremendously since 1900, as has the reach of the CBC. This census is conducted primarily by community scientists, like you, and the data collected has been used by Audubon, the Environmental Protection Agency, American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others to help identify long-term population trends and movements for hundreds of species across North America.

Visit Audubon’s interactive map to find contact information for the coordinator of a Christmas Bird Count near you.

To participate in a Detroit-area CBC, contact Detroit Audubon’s research coordinator, Ava Landgraf, at alandgraf@detroitaudubon.org.

Detroit River Important Bird Area Winter Waterfowl Count (Jan. 13 and 26 and Feb. 23): The Detroit River is a globally recognized Important Bird Area, known for its outstanding migrant and wintering waterfowl and waterbird concentrations. Early winter surveys have recorded high counts of canvasbacks (79,300), over 1,900 tundra swans, 1,000 American black ducks, 10,000 mallards, 3,500 common mergansers, 40 Forster’s terns and 275 common tern nests. Bird Studies Canada began conducting winter waterfowl counts for this Important Bird Area, and Detroit Audubon began covering the U.S. side of the river in 2018.

Contact Detroit Audubon’s research coordinator, Ava Landgraf, at alandgraf@detroitaudubon.org for more information on how you can help with this international Important Bird Area winter waterfowl count.

Climate Watch (Jan. 15 – Feb. 15): This Audubon bird count, which occurs in the winter and the summer (May 15 - June 15), provides scientists with data on the current distribution of target species, such as the eastern bluebird, white-breasted nuthatch and red-breasted nuthatch. The data then can be used to validate and refine Audubon’s Climate Watch models that help predict species range shifts under the effects of climate change. Increasing the model’s accuracy will allow scientists to identify areas of high climatic suitability for target species and to inform on-the-ground land-management decisions.

Contact one of the following Climate Watch coordinators in Michigan to learn how and where you can participate: Becky Kuhn (Grand Rapids Audubon Club) at bexrecky@gmail.com or Brian Merlos (Audubon Great Lakes) at bmerlos@audubon.org.


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