Many people reported that birds disappeared from their feeders in the fall and NH Audubon wants to know if they have returned with the cold weather. Help track our bird populations by taking part in the annual Backyard Winter Bird Survey on Saturday, February 10th and Sunday, February 11th. Biologists need assistance from citizens all over the Granite State to get a clear picture of what’s been happening with our winter birds.
This fall there were exceptionally good natural food crops of berries, seeds, nuts, and cones. The birds took advantage of this natural bounty and, combined with the mild fall weather, spent more time in the woods, often ignoring feeders entirely. Woodpeckers seemed to be the first to return to feeders followed gradually by other species. Christmas Bird Count data are beginning to come in and first indications are that the number of most feeder birds is average with one exception – Black-capped Chickadee. This is one of our most common feeder birds and its absence is especially noticeable.
So where are all the chickadees? NH Audubon doesn’t know of any mortality event that would have reduced the population, and the timing of their initial disappearance in the fall indicates two possibilities – either the chickadees in Canada never came south because of good local food supplies, or chickadees left our state in the fall for points south. Some birds we think of as year-round residents, including chickadees, Blue Jays, and House Finch, migrate in some years. Occasionally they move south in response to food supplies or weather cues we can’t detect.
Some species, such as American Goldfinch, are nomadic, following food sources over a large region and we have years with many goldfinch and other years with none. On the plus side, signs are that it is a record-breaking winter for Dark-eyed Juncos with many Christmas Bird Counts reporting record high numbers.
NH Audubon needs your help to track chickadees, juncos and other feeder birds. Anyone can participate in the Backyard Winter Bird Survey by counting the birds in their own backyard on the survey weekend and reporting online or sending the results on a special reporting form to NH Audubon. To receive a copy of the reporting form and complete instructions, email your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-224-9909. Forms are also available at NH Audubon centers in Auburn, Concord and Manchester, and online.
Each year about 1,400 observers across the state count the birds coming to their feeders. “With over 30 years of data we can look at chickadee numbers and see if they are lower than normal or just in different areas of the state,” says Survey Coordinator, Rebecca Suomala. “We also have the makings of a possible record-breaking year for juncos and it will be interesting to see those numbers. The pattern of ups and downs in different bird species is fascinating.”
Data from the Backyard Winter Bird Survey help biologists track changes in the distribution and abundance of our feeder birds. Reports of a lack of birds are just as valuable as reports of many birds. “If everyone reported only when they have a lot of birds, we wouldn’t be able to see the declines,” says Suomala. The most important thing is to participate each year regardless of how many or how few birds you have. This provides a consistent long-term set of data that shows both the ups and downs.
All New Hampshire residents are encouraged to take part. Results from past years are on the website. For more information about the Backyard Winter Bird Survey, please call NH Audubon at 224-9909 or visit the website with the button, below:
This announcement was originally published on the NH Audubon website. Black-capped chickadee photo by Rebecca Suomala. Dark-eyed junco photo by Sarah Richter (Flickr Creative Commons).