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BACKYARD NATURALIST: West Virginia ’s Backyard Bird Count Needs You!

For the past 16 years, many West Virginians have taken part in the Wildlife Northern CardinalDiversity Program’s Backyard Winter Bird Count. Even though participation in the count has decreased slightly over the last several years, all counties in the state except Doddridge were represented. The data collected from the winter bird count provides trend data as well as important information on West Virginia’s winter bird populations. For example, data from the past have shown:

  • The American goldfinch, dark-eyed junco, mourning dove, house finch and northern cardinal to be the top five winter visitors respectively to feeders across the state.
  • Where and when the three “irruptive” species (evening grosbeak, common redpoll and pine siskin) are observed in the state. These species only occasionally winter as far south as West Virginia as a result of low seed crop years farther north.
  • The dramatic increase in the three exotic species (European starling, house sparrow and rock pigeon) in certain areas of the state.
  • Observations of interesting or rare winter visitors such as rusty blackbirds, northern bobwhites, fish crows, dickcissels, golden eagles, northern goshawks, boat-tailed grackles, northern harriers, northern and orchard orioles, osprey, black and white warbler, black-throated green warbler and yellow warblers.

In addition, the count provides an educational and recreational opportunity for many West Virginians, young and old alike. Each year various school classes and assisted-living facilities from across the state submit count data.

By observing feeders outside their classroom windows, school children not only learn to identify several species of birds, but also learn a great deal about the natural history and biology of wildlife in general. Those residing in assisted- living facilities are able to provide important data on winter birds while enjoying the beauty of nature just outside their window.

The DNR commends the many West Virginians who have participated in the Backyard Winter Bird Count for the last 16 years. Due to the tremendous importance of garnering information on winter birds here in the Mountain State, not to mention engaging in an educational and interesting activity to help wile away the winter weekends, we encourage everyone to consider participating in the Bird Count.

Please see the instructions below and the tally sheets on the following pages. As this is only one of the many bird counts undertaken throughout the year, you may find yourself wanting more!

Contact Rob Tallman, or 304-637-0245 for more information.

Pointers For Filling Out Form

Time to grab a pencil and binoculars for the annual Winter Bird Count. The tally sheets are on following pages. The count is 12 weeks long to allow us to record some early spring arrivals.

Count the highest number of each species that appears around your feeder at any one time during the entire weekend. For example, if you observe nine house finches at the feeder while you’re having breakfast on Saturday, and seven are there during halftime on Sunday, put down “9” for the weekend, do not add them.

Estimate their numbers if you get a very large number of birds. Don’t use descriptive words such as “many” or “few.”

Some birds, such as crows and robins, may feed away from your feeders. You can count birds such as these as long as you’re consistent.

When a species doesn’t appear, leave its box blank, don’t enter a “0.” Please do not substitute another day if you missed a designated day. If you’re not home one weekend, simply draw a line through that row.

We welcome any information on bird health, unusual sightings and other interesting happenings in your area. Please try to return your tally sheets by May 1, 2005 .

Click here to download the bird count tally sheet