A group of school children participate in Trailside’s Great Backyard Bird Count. Photo by KC Parks Department.

For the love of birds

It’s time for the Great Backyard Bird Count, a global event that happens every year at mid-winter.

By Jill Draper

It’s time for the Great Backyard Bird Count, a global event that happens every year at mid-winter. 

In south KC  the Great Backyard Bird Count takes place at the Trailside Center at 9901 Holmes Road. Both beginners and experts are welcome to spend an hour and a half as citizen scientists to help document trends in bird populations. However, this year the event which would have taken place February 13-15 has been cancelled due to weather.

“We will schedule another next year,” says Sara Scheil, Missouri Master Naturalist who helps lead the count.  “In the meantime, all individuals are urged to conduct their own surveying of bird population in the comfort of their homes or immediate habitat areas.” She encourages snowed in participants to follow details at Birdcount.org.
Starlings are one of the more common birds seen during the Great American Bird Count. Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

This is the 11th year for the bird count. In the last several years an average of 22 species has been seen during each count at Trailside, depending on the weather and other factors. The most common birds are starlings, robins and cardinals, but that’s only the top of the list. According to Scheil, participants have been excited in the past to see a brown creeper, kinglets (both ruby-crowned and golden-crowned), great horned owl, barred owl, bald eagle and belted kingfisher.

The bird counts are recorded on a huge data base called eBird, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count more than 27 million birds from nearly 200 countries were counted with nearly 7,000 species identified.

“The numbers for the Indian Creek Greenway are pretty good, considering this is an urban area,” says Scheil. She notes that birds, like all wildlife, need food and shelter to survive the winter. Conditions are best when vegetation—shrubs, grasses and trees—is protected to offer habitat. Even dead trees with woodpecker cavities are important; they provide shelter for chickadees, titmice and bluebirds.

According to a study by the National Audubon Society, two-thirds of North American birds are at increasing risk of extinction because of climate change. “The good news is that our science also shows that if we take action now we can help improve the changes for 76% of species at risk,” Scheil says.

Older children are welcome at the Trailside Center bird count, and there’s even a Kansas City Chapter of the Missouri Young Birders Club for youth ages 7-18 (see facebook.com/KCYoungBirders).

Great Backyard Bird Count results from 2020*

  • 268,674 Estimated Participants
  • 27,270,156 Total Birds Counted
  • 6,942 Species of Birds Identified
  • 194 Countries

*Statistics from Birdcount.org

For more about the global count, see birdcount.org.

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