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Citizen Scientists Needed to Count Michigan's Feathered Friends

Robins are among the birds that will be observed in Michigan during the Great Backyard Bird Count. (Lip Kee/Flickr)
Robins are among the birds that will be observed in Michigan during the Great Backyard Bird Count. (Lip Kee/Flickr)
February 12, 2016

LANSING, Mich. - If you have 15 minutes free over the next few days, you could help contribute to one of the biggest annual citizen-science projects. Volunteers are needed in Michigan for the Great Backyard Bird Count, which runs from today through Monday.

Rachelle Roake, conservation science coordinator for Michigan Audubon, said there are too many of our feathered friends for scientists and researchers to monitor alone, and the data collected locally contributes to a better understanding of how bird populations are changing in response to the environment.

"This data can be used to look at changes in species distribution," she said. "It can look at fluctuations in population numbers, and it's a great indicator of changes in the environment such as climate change."

Binoculars are not needed, Roake said, just a good set of eyes and 15 minutes to observe and record the types and numbers of birds in the backyard or at a local green space. Michigan residents can register for the bird count online, and then enter their results, at gbbc.birdcount.org.

The species of birds that will be viewed depends on the geographic location in Michigan. Roake said changes in habitat such as this year's warmer winter will vary bird populations.

"People are observing many more songbirds than usual," she said. "We're seeing a lot more robins and, actually, we've been getting still a lot of reports of sandhill cranes, which is a migratory species that's usually far south by now."

Last year, volunteers from more than 100 countries participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count and observed more than 5,000 species.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI