How Many Birds in Your Backyard?

Posted on January 10, 2012

NH Audubon Needs Your Help on Statewide Bird Survey!
Concord – Stock up those bird feeders and dig out your binoculars for New Hampshire Audubon’s Backyard Winter Bird Survey. This annual statewide survey will take place on Saturday, February 11, and Sunday, February 12. Biologists need assistance from citizens all over the Granite State to get a clear picture of what’s really happening with our winter birds.

Anyone can participate in the Backyard Winter Bird Survey by counting the birds in their own backyard on the survey weekend and sending the results using online data entry or on a special reporting form to NH Audubon. To receive a copy of the reporting form and complete instructions on how to participate, send a self-addressed, stamped, long envelope to:
New Hampshire Audubon, Winter Bird Survey
84 Silk Farm Road,
Concord, NH 03301

Forms are also available at NH Audubon centers in Auburn, Concord and Manchester, or you can find them on the NH Audubon web site, along with more information about the survey at http://www.nhaudubon.org/backyard-winter-bird-survey under the Birding page.

Data from the Backyard Winter Bird Survey is used to track changes in the distribution and abundance of many species. Each year about 1,300 observers across the state count the birds coming to their feeders. “The strength of the survey is that we can look at trends over the long term,” says Survey Coordinator, Rebecca Suomala. “We now have more than 20 years of data and we can see the patterns of ups and downs in different bird species.”

Last year, 77 species were recorded overall, tying the previous high from 2001. The survey showed large numbers of Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins that periodically come south in big numbers typically every other year. “We’re not expecting those two species in 2012 but we are due for a good year for American Goldfinch, which last peaked in 2009,” according to Dr. Pam Hunt, Senior Biologist at NH Audubon. Hunt’s analysis shows that southern species such as Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Carolina Wrens continue to increase on the survey.  Eastern Bluebirds set a new record high and show no signs of slowing down. Two other species showing long term increases, Wild Turkey and Pileated Woodpecker, also set record highs in 2011. The Barred Owl total was the third highest ever, and likely the result of deep snows which made hunting difficult last winter.

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 NH Audubon web site. For more information about the Backyard Winter Bird Survey, please call NH Audubon at 224-9909 or go to the web site at http://www.nhaudubon.org/backyard-winter-bird-survey.

Note: There are two bird surveys in February. NH Audubon’s Backyard Winter Bird Survey that takes place in New Hampshire only, and the Great Backyard Bird Count, a nation-wide web-based survey on February 17-20, 2012; www.birdcount.org.

Click here for Numbers of Barred Owls on NH Audubon’s annual Backyard Winter Bird Survey, 1987-2011.

Homepage photo by Len Medlock.