ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -
Reports from tens of thousands of bird-counting volunteers show a southern
invasion of Arctic-dwelling snowy owls has spread to 25 states, and frigid
cold is causing unusual movements of waterfowl.
Results are still
coming in from the four-day annual Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by
the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society and Bird Studies
Canada. Sponsors say the event, which ended Monday, drew participants from a
record 127 countries, surpassing last year’s 110. Most were from the U.S.
show more than 2,500 snowy owls being reported in 25 states and seven
Canadian provinces. The big white owls are in the midst of an irruption, or
a sudden invasion of a region in large numbers, which scientists attribute
to a population boom in the birds and a scarcity of their preferred food,
lemmings, in their normal range on the Arctic tundra.
finding is that with the Great Lakes almost completely frozen, some species,
such as white-winged scoter and long-tailed duck, have left the lakes and
stopped at inland locations where they’re not usually found at this time of
The Great Backyard
Bird Count is designed to engage the public in nature study as well as help
“When tens of
thousands of participants around the world share what they’re seeing during
the Great Backyard Bird Count, they help scientists achieve something that
would otherwise be impossible - documenting where vast numbers of birds are,
all across the world, in a very short period of time,” said Janis Dickinson,
director of citizen science at the Cornell Lab in Ithaca.
The most numerous
species reported were snow geese, with 1.1 million recorded, followed by
Canada geese, European starlings, mallard ducks and red-winged blackbirds.
The annual backyard
count, now in its 17th year, is open to anyone. Participants observe and
record birds in their backyard or any other location for at least 15 minutes
on one or more days of the count and submit the observations online.
Anyone can view the
results and explore trends in bird distribution and numbers online at