Bird count to take place Feb. 17-20

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People across Maine and the country are asked to take a look out their windows during the Great Backyard Bird Count Feb. 17-20.

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count helps better define bird ranges, populations, migration pathways and habitat needs. The count provides a simultaneous snapshot of the whereabouts of more than 600 species across the nation and in Canada.

“Although rare bird sightings are noted, the count is to study larger population trends,” said Laura Turner, one of the GBBC ambassadors and owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in South Portland. “And of course, the more checklists submitted, the more accurate a picture we get.”

The count extends well beyond backyards. Many participants choose to head for national parks, nature centers, urban parks, nature trails, even ski resorts. Anyone can participate in this free event and no registration is needed.

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Watch and count birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count, noting some other information such as weather conditions, amount of snowfall, etc. Most participants will enter their results online at www.birdcount.org. The website also includes a photo contest and a prize drawing for participants who enter their bird checklists online.

More than 92,000 bird checklists were submitted during last year’s count. Bird watchers identified 596 species with 11.4 million bird observations. Results from the 2011 GBBC included:

* Increased reports of Evening Grosbeaks, a species that has been declining.

* A modest seasonal movement of winter finches farther south in their search for food.

* The Eurasian Collared-Dove was reported from Alaska for the first time, more evidence of an introduced species rapidly expanding its range.

Maine participants submitted a total of 861 checklists reporting 99 different species. Maine has the second highest birding participation rate by residents in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

For more information about the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit www.birdcount.org. Participants are also welcome to pick up bird count worksheets, ask questions and submit their checklists to Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in South Portland, 771-2473.

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