State birding challenge takes flight

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ALBANY — The state Department of Environmental Conservation has launched its “I Bird NY” challenges for both fledgling and experienced birders.

Two levels of challenges provide the opportunity to identify birds and learn about birdlife and offer a chance to win birding equipment, the DEC said, adding that with the launch of many New York State Birding Trail segments this year that the agency will increase the chances of winning if participants find birds on a New York State Birding trail site.

“No matter where you live, birdwatching is a fun, easy, affordable activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, abilities, identities, and backgrounds,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “This summer is a great time to start birding or take your birding skills to the next level by observing birds in the diverse variety of habitats and locations the New York State Birding Trail offers.” 

New York State’s wide-ranging habitat types, from the Atlantic Ocean’s sandy beaches to majestic Catskill and Adirondack peaks, Great Lakes shorelines, and everything in between create a birder’s paradise that supports more than 450 different bird species throughout the year, the DEC announcement said.

The annual I BIRD NY Beginner’s Birding Challenge is open to anyone 16 years of age and younger. To complete the Beginner’s Birding Challenge, participants must identify 10 common New York bird species and submit their challenge sheet to DEC.

In addition to the Beginner’s Birding Challenge, DEC is offering the "I Bird NY" experienced birder challenge https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_pdf/expbirdchallenge.pdf. To complete birders of any age must identify at least 10 different bird species found across New York State.

Entries can be submitted online or be mailed or emailed and must be received by Oct. 14. Both entry forms are also available in Spanish.

All participants in both challenges will be able to print a certificate of participation and be entered into a random drawing for a chance to win birding accessories, including binoculars and a grand prize spotting scope. All participants will also receive an extra entry for identifying half (five) of the birds on state Birding Trail sites.

Birdwatching is one of the fastest-growing outdoor recreational activities in the nation, according to the DEC announcement, and 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.

The "I BIRD NY" program was launched in 2017 to build on the state’s efforts to increase access to New York’s vast natural resources and promote no- and low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and connect with nature, officials said.

The public can observe birds wherever they live, work, or recreate, making birding an accessible activity that does not require transportation or the purchase of specialized equipment and can be enjoyed by people from all backgrounds. While binoculars can help, many birds can be identified without special equipment.

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