Program Encourages New Yorkers to Enjoy Birding Close to Home and on the New York State Birding Trail
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the start of the 2023 I BIRD NY Challenge for birders of all ages and abilities. The challenge provides opportunities to identify and learn about birds and awards participants who finish the program with a commemorative I BIRD NY Challenge patch and the chance to win birding equipment. DEC has updated the challenge format this year to feature a single challenge for all ages and abilities.
“No matter where you live or where you come from, birdwatching is a fun, easy, and affordable activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, abilities, identities, and backgrounds,” Commissioner Seggos said. “With spring migration in full swing, it’s a great time of year to take up birding or take your birding skills to the next level by observing birds on the diverse variety of habitats found in New York State.”
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, supporting more than 450 different bird species throughout the year. New York has many wonderful Birding Trail locations and new ones are being added all the time, making it even easier for New Yorkers to get started with birding.
Birdwatching is one of the fastest-growing outdoor recreational activities in the country. 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. I BIRD NY is just one of DEC’s ongoing efforts to engage New Yorkers in nature-based activities that provide a fun opportunity for the entire family to learn about the natural world. Because people can observe birds wherever they live, work, or recreate, birding is an accessible activity that does not require transportation or the purchase of specialized equipment. Birdwatching can be enjoyed by people from all economic backgrounds and education levels. While binoculars can help, many birds can be identified without them.
Chris Lajewski, Center Director at Montezuma Audubon Center in Savannah, said, “Montezuma Audubon Center, one of 41 National Audubon Society centers, is thrilled to welcome visitors to the New York State Birding Trail where you can paddle to search for secretive marsh birds and shorebirds and hike to experience melodious songbirds and migratory waterfowl. Montezuma’s forests, wetlands, grasslands and waterways are critical to the health of birds and people. Nearly 300 bird species, including threatened and endangered species like the black tern, pied-billed grebe and northern harrier, are found across this unique mosaic of habitats. Montezuma Audubon Center encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the pleasures of birding along the New York State Birding Trail and take the I BIRD NY Challenge, and we’re delighted that more New Yorkers now have the opportunity to take part in this joyful activity.”
The Western New York Young Birder Club (WNY YBC) (leaves DEC website) was started by Maisie Hebrank (9) and Sam Hebrank (12) to connect with other kids who love birds as much as they do. Founder of the WNY YBC, Maisie Hebrank, said, “Birds are awesome!!!!!” which is the motto of the WNY YBC.
The 2023 I BIRD NY Challenge is open to all ages and ends on Nov. 1. To complete the challenge, participants are required to identify any 10 bird species of their choosing and submit a challenge sheet to DEC that can be found at DEC’s website. Challenge sheets may be submitted online via Survey Monkey (leaves DEC website) or sent via email or mail. Entries must be received by Nov. 17. Entry forms are also available in Spanish. All participants will be awarded a commemorative patch, given a completion certificate, and entered into a drawing for great birding prizes. Two youth and two adult winners will be chosen. Participants will also receive an extra prize entry for providing a photo documenting their challenge experience. As an extra bonus, the first 50 participants will receive a special goodie bag of birding swag items.
Birding enthusiasts can visit I Bird NY to access this year’s challenge sheets, as well as find information on where and how to watch birds, upcoming birding events, a downloadable Beginner’s Guide to Birding (also available in Spanish), and additional resources. Those interested may also opt to sign up for DEC’s monthly birding newsletter, Words of a Feather, to have birding tips and tricks, New York State Birding Trail site recommendations, events, and more delivered right to one’s inbox.
DEC will be hosting a Facebook and Instagram Live about the 2023 I BIRD NY Challenge from the Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area in coming days. Tune in to @NYSDEC for more details.
As always, challenge participants are encouraged to Love Our New York Lands by practicing Leave No TraceTM principles and by recreating safely and sustainably. For more information, go to DEC’s website.