State issues eighth annual birding challenge

— Photo from NYSDEC

Birding can take place in cities and suburbs as well as rural areas.

The game is afoot: New Yorkers of any age are encouraged by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to make like Sherlock Holmes and observe with care to identify birds in their environs.

The 2024 I BIRD NY Challenge began this week and ends on Nov. 1.

To complete the challenge, participants must identify 10 bird species of their choosing and submit a challenge sheet to the DEC. Challenge sheets may be submitted online via Survey Monkey or sent by email or postal mail.

Entries must be received by Nov. 15. Entry forms are also available in Spanish.

All participants will be awarded a commemorative patch, given a completion certificate, and entered into a drawing for birding prizes. Two youth and two adult winners will be chosen.

Participants will also receive an extra prize entry for providing a photo documenting their challenge experience. As a bonus, the first 50 participants will receive a special goodie bag of birding swag items. 

Birding enthusiasts can visit I BIRD NY to access this year's challenge sheet, as well as find information on where and how to watch birds, upcoming birding events, a downloadable Beginner's Guide to Birding (also available in Spanish), and additional resources.

Those interested may also sign up for the DEC’s monthly birding newsletter, Words of a Feather, to have birding tips and tricks, New York State Birding Trail site recommendations, events, and more delivered online.

The I BIRD NY program was launched in 2017 to promote no- and low-cost opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and connect with nature, according to a release from the DEC. The annual birding challenge saw a 745 percent increase in participation in 2023, with 1,226 birding enthusiasts completing the challenge.

New York has more than 350 Birding Trail locations, including locally in the Pine Bush Preserve. Birdwatching is one of the fastest-growing outdoor recreational activities in the United States. According to the 2022 National Survey of Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 7.4 million wildlife watchers generated $10.8 billion in New York State in 2022. This is up from an estimated four million New York resident wildlife viewers spending more than $6.4 billion annually in 2016. 

Backyard birding, or watching birds close to home, is the most common way people engage in birding. As a birder's skill and interest develop, there are several opportunities to contribute to scientific knowledge about birds and the natural world. Programs like eBird, New York’s Breeding Bird Atlas, Cornell Lab of Ornithology's NestWatch, and the Great Backyard Bird Count rely on volunteer birders to contribute sightings to a centralized database.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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