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Scientists call on bird-watchers in a new study of residential areas

[APRIL 18, 2006]  ITHACA, N.Y. -- Residential areas can provide good habitats for birds, but what features are most important for wild birds, and how do differences among yards influence how well birds fare? These are some of the questions scientists will answer with help from bird-watchers in a new citizen-science project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology called "My Yard Counts!"

The counting begins any time in April and continues once per week through August, with flexibility to accommodate summer holidays. Participants spend 20 minutes each week counting birds in the same spot around their home and report the highest number for each species seen at any one time. Their findings will aid scientists in the only continentwide bird study that focuses on often-overlooked residential areas in spring and summer.

"Birds will often use habitats right around where people live," said Dr. Caren Cooper, a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology who is leading the study. "But we don't know the extent to which yard habitat might add up to affect the numbers and diversity of birds. For example, certain decisions about landscaping a yard may boost bird numbers."

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Residential areas can provide places for birds to stop and find food as they migrate thousands of miles to and from their breeding grounds. Birds such as American robins, northern mockingbirds and house finches may nest in areas around homes. By participating in the counting project, bird-watchers can help scientists identify the features that affect birds most, such as landscaping, bird feeders, natural food sources and predators, including cats and dogs.

You can help test the idea that habitat quality counts, yard by yard. For bird lovers, it's time to stand up and say, "My Yard Counts!" Participants will be contributing valuable information for bird conservation just by doing what they already love to do -- watch the birds. Participation is free. For information, visit www.birds.cornell.edu/MyYardCounts.

[Cornell Lab of Ornithology]

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution interpreting and conserving the earth's biological diversity through research, education and citizen science focused on birds.

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