Birding challenges initiated by state
ALBANY — Two birding challenges are being initiated by the state of New York as part of the I BIRD NY program.
The program was launched in 2017 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to build on the state’s efforts to increase awareness and access the state’s natural resources and promote low-cost opportunities for residents to explore the outdoors and connect with nature.
“Birding can be enjoyed by New Yorkers of any age and ability, no matter where they live. I BIRD NY is making it easier than ever to get outside and enjoy birdwatching,” state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a news release. “I encourage residents and visitors alike to take a trip and experience some of New York’s prime bird watching areas. For competitive birders out there, I encourage you to participate in this year’s Birder Challenge.”
I BIRD NY encourages New Yorkers to engage in birding all year long. From Montauk to Buffalo, New York is home to a wide array of habitats that support more than 450 different bird species. There are also 59 bird conservation areas across the state. Bird watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and experiences in any community.
To help encourage young people to get outdoors, DEC is hosting an I BIRD NY Beginners Birding Challenge open to anyone 16 years of age and younger. All participants will receive a completion certificate, an official I BIRD NY bracelet, and be entered to win birding accessories, including binoculars and spotting scopes. To complete the Beginners Birding Challenge, participants must find 10 common New York bird species.
This year, DEC is introducing a new birding challenge open to adults. Current birders are encouraged to take birding to the next level by taking the I BIRD NY Experienced Birder Challenge. To complete the challenge, birders must find at least 10 of 50 listed bird species found across the state. All participants in this challenge will receive a special certificate, bracelet, and be entered into a drawing for a spotting scope. All entries for the two challenges must be received by Sept. 30, 2018.
According to the release, this year makes an especially good time to engage everyone in the appreciation and protection of bird species. 2018 has been named the Year of the Bird by the National Audubon Society, National Geographic, BirdLife International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
“Audubon New York applauds the DEC’s continued commitment to connect New Yorkers to nature through the joys of birdwatching, and we thank the commissioner for embarking on this worthwhile and fun initiative”, said Ana Paula Tavares, executive director of Audubon New York. “We look forward to working with the DEC to provide opportunities for New Yorkers to engage in these challenges and to enjoy birding through our statewide network of nature centers, sanctuaries, and local Audubon chapter programs.”
In addition, the need for outdoor recreation has never been greater. According to the National Wildlife Federation, childhood obesity has doubled over the past 20 years and the average American child spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen. Accessible state lands, parks, and facilities can promote physical activity, an important element of overall wellness. These assets provide low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and to connect with nature.
Birding and wildlife watching also provide significant economic impacts to New York’s communities. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, wildlife watchers spent $4.2 billion on wildlife-watching activities in the state in 2011.
Visit I Bird NY to find the two challenges, and for information on where and how to bird watch, upcoming bird walks and other events, a downloadable kids booklet, and additional resources.