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SCHIESS: Time for the Great Backyard Bird Count

Living the Wild Life

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It’s time to count area birds, again. But counting them can be frustrating at times when there are really more than you can count; like the flock of blackbirds at Deer Parks Wildlife Management area west of the Menan Buttes. Feeding in the corn patch left standing by the Department of Idaho Fish and Game, 500 to 1000 of these summertime birds have stayed the winter and need to be counted.

The 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count will run from February 12-15, with everyone invited to participate in this very important activity. Information from or, are great ways to begin. The web site has many suggestions for activities during the count.

This count allows researchers to pinpoint bird movements and how they change from year to year. Because of abundant food supplies in the northern wintering grounds last year, we had few of the winter finches like Nuthatches, Pine siskins and Red Polls in southeastern Idaho. This year we have seen an abundance of these birds; many more than what visited us last year.


We have also seen very few Horned larks which normally show up by the thousands on the Rexburg Bench. Also missing has been the Gray-crowned Rosy finches and the Short-eared and Long-eared owls. Just recently a few Bohemian Waxwings mixed with a few Cedar waxwings have showed up on the Henrys Fork near Chester.

If you want to attract some of these birds to your home for this activity, a few things need to be done. I would suggest you hang three different kinds of feeders. One that would attract the finches is a thistle (niger) seed sack, another would be a feeder with sunflower seeds, and then a suet cake will bring in woodpeckers, flickers and nuthatches.


The next step to become involved is to set up an account on the web site to enter your observations. The observations can be as little as recording the species and number of each for 15 minutes and then report it. People are encouraged to report birds from public lands and local parks, as well as from their own backyards.

Last year I did eight counts; one each day from my back window and then I picked another local area for another checklist. Great areas to do counts during the GBBC are St. Anthony including the Chester Wetlands, Rexburg Bench, Roberts including Market Lake, Beaver Dick Park including Cartier Slough and last, Camas National Wildlife Refuge area.

There are two ways to report the observed birds this year. One is to set up a free account with eBird before the count begins or wait until February 12 and set up an account on the GBBC website.


In 2012 in Idaho there were 141species counted with the European Starling being the most numerous followed closely by the Canada goose. Rexburg had only 10 checklists with 54 species with the starling being number one followed by the American Goldfinch coming in second.

This year the GBBC will be worldwide for the third time and last year 5090 species were recorded worldwide with 671 species identified in the United States. Ecuador and India surpassed the USA with 784 and 717 species respectively.

As I look forward to the GBBC, I am hopeful that my 83 species I have located in 2016 so far will grow. I know I will be busy during the President’s weekend counting what birds I can find; including the large flocks of blackbirds and hopefully some rare birds storms may blow in.