Oklahomans who enjoy feeding and watching birds can use their hobby to support conservation efforts this winter. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is asking bird watchers to participate in the 19th annual Oklahoma Winter Bird Survey.
Bird watchers can help Department biologists by choosing any two days between Jan. 11-14 to count birds at their household feeders. The information gathered from participants can then be used to help track population trends in the state's winter birds.
"By asking bird watchers across Oklahoma to take the survey, biologists can accomplish more in four days than we ever could have on our own," said Melynda Hickman, wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Department. "Since there are so many bird watchers in Oklahoma, we can use the information they gather to help us look for trends."
Hundreds of households have participated in the survey in years past, and the results can help the Department decide if bird ranges and populations are normal as well as warn of potential conservation issues. The survey involves counting birds at backyard feeders at least four times a day for two days during the survey dates and completing a form provided by the Wildlife Department.
The Wildlife Department is currently developing an extensive bird-watching resource that will be available soon at : wildlifedepartment.com. For help identifying Oklahoma birds try this: Birds of Oklahoma: Field Guide (Our Nature Field Guides).
Participants will be able to use the bird-watching Web pages to find extensive winter bird information such as identification tips, diets, feeding behaviors and winter ranges as well as links to other birding Web sites.
Hickman said anyone who has a bird feeder can participate, but that certain efforts can be made to attract more birds to feeders. Black-oil sunflower seed is a good choice for bird feeders because of its high protein content that birds can use during the winter and because all seed-eating Oklahoma songbirds will eat it. Suet, animal fat often mixed with grains or peanut butter, is good for drawing in species such as woodpeckers and birds that don't primarily eat seeds. Finally, a source of water and cover such as brush piles or dense shrubs located near the feeders might draw more birds, Hickman said.
For detailed instructions and to take the survey, log on to wildlifedepartment.com and click on "2007 Winter Bird Survey."
Participants have until Feb. 12 to submit results.