Photo by Dave Warner – Canada Geese take flight off of Spruce Lake in Little Falls.

In anticipation of World Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, May 11, New York State Department of Environment Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the start of the 2019 “I Bird NY” challenges for beginner and experienced birders. I Bird NY was launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2017 to build on the state’s efforts to promote opportunities to explore the great outdoors and to connect with nature.

“Millions of New Yorkers enjoy watching birds every year in New York State,” Commissioner Seggos said. “With the recent arrival of spring migrants, May is the perfect time of year for people to get outside and rekindle their enthusiasm for birding.”

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. The state’s I Bird NY program encourages New Yorkers to get outdoors and engage in birding all year long.

DEC is hosting its annual I Bird NY Beginner’s Birding Challenge, which is open to anyone 16 years of age and younger. To complete the Beginner’s Birding Challenge, participants must identify 10 common New York bird species and submit their challenge sheet to DEC. All participants in this challenge will receive a certificate of participation, an official I Bird NY bracelet, and be entered to win birding accessories.

In addition to the Beginner’s Birding Challenge, DEC is offering the I Bird NY Experienced Birder Challenge. To complete the challenge, birders of all ages must identify at least 10 of 50 listed bird species found across New York State. All participants in this challenge will receive a certificate of participation, an official I Bird NY bracelet and be entered into a drawing for birding accessories.

Nature enthusiasts can visit I Bird NY to access the birding challenge sheets as well as find information on where and how to watch birds, upcoming bird walks, and other events, a downloadable kid’s booklet, and additional resources.

Ana Paula Tavares, Executive Director of Audubon New York, said, “It’s fitting to launch ‘I Bird NY’ during peak spring migration, as millions of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Cape May Warblers, Least Terns, and other birds land in our state to nest and rest. We encourage everyone to step outside and not just enjoy and learn-but share-what you see around you. The more we work together to protect birds and the places we all need, the bigger impact we can make.”

Saturday, May 11, 2019, has been designated as World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) by the Convention on Migratory Species, the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, and the Environment for the Americas. The theme of World Migratory Bird Day this year is “Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution!”, emphasizing how plastic in the environment can negatively affect birds and other wildlife. This year on Earth Day, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation banning the sale of single-use plastic bags in New York starting in March 2020. Single-use bags degrade slowly and often wind up as litter on lands and in waters, harming birds or wildlife that ingest the plastic. The new ban is a significant step to reduce pollution and protect fish and wildlife.