Mountain Chickadee, Harris’ Sparrow and Stellar’s Jay among 51 bird species found in western Nebraska during annual bird count

January 6, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — Audobon’s 119th Christmas Bird Count was another success with volunteers conducting counts over the Christmas holiday.

Counts were done in Scottsbluff, Crawford and Lake McConaughy, which will be used in the future for scientific research.

Each year, tens of thousands of volunteers spend part of their Christmas season helping to count and record individual birds and bird species they encounter during a prescribed day and within a 15-mile diameter of the location picked.

More than 72,000 volunteers in more than 2,500 locations across the western hemisphere participated in counts. The data is valuable in determining bird species and what bird species are in a specific geographic area in winter. The work of the volunteers helps to track bird population health at a finer scale than any scientist could do alone.

“There has been a decline in numbers of several species over the years, and movement of others,” said Kathy DeLara, compiler. “More recently, it is showing how climate change is affecting birds.”

The analysis of the volunteers’ findings have led to more than 300 peer-reviewed articles and a better understanding of how birds are responding to changing climates. This data was used in the research and findings that 314 North American bird species are now threatened by climate change. Those results were published in Audobon’s Birds and Climate Change Study.

Counting birds is combined with mapping and other modern technology to provide new details not available in the past.

“The data can help us understand what needs to be done for conservation of species and habitat,” she said.

The citizen science project has provided ornithologists vital information about native bird populations in winter. DeLara has been participating since 1996.

“I do it because I feel it’s important to contribute to the database, but mostly because I love going out and looking for birds,” she said. “You never know what you will find.”

The Scottsbluff count’s center is near Dome Rock and includes Scottsbluff and Gering. Volunteers have been doing the Scottsbluff Count since 1953 and average 43 species each count. There are 16 count circles in Nebraska, including Scottsbluff, Crawford and Harrison.

“This year, we had 51 species, including a few species not normally seen for the count,” she said.

A Mountain Chickadee was spotted at a feeder in Gering, a Harris’ Sparrow was seen west of Scottsbluff and a Steller’s Jay visited a feeder in the Wildcat Hills.

“We also had a record number of Bald Eagles with a count of 38 individuals,” DeLara said.

Wildcat Audubon has programs and field trips throughout the year. They are free and everyone is welcome to come. For more information visit https://wildcataudubon.org/ or visit their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WildcatAudubon/.

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