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Nature lovers around the world are marking 2018 as the Year of the Bird. Each of us can join the National Audubon Society, National Geographic, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Bird Life International in a year-long celebration focused on helping birds and conserving the places they need.

To make a commitment to birds, sign up online at the National Audubon Society’s website (http://www.audubon.org/) or the National Geographic Society’s website (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/year-of-the-bird/) – it is free and it takes just a couple minutes.

Once you are signed up, the partner organizations will ask people to take simple actions that will help birds each month. February’s featured action was the Great Backyard Bird Count.

The Great Backyard Bird Count started in 1998 and was the first online citizen-science project to collect data about wild birds. The count is done in February each year to give a snapshot of bird distributions before spring migration. By participating in the bird count, citizen scientists help researchers better understand patterns of bird diversity and abundance, as well as issues such how weather or climate change influences bird populations, how migrations compare to those of the past, and how diseases affect birds in various parts of the country.

A query of Great Backyard Bird Count data showed that 669 species of birds were observed in the United States in 2017. Missouri’s total was 142 species. Thirteen people participated in the 2017 count in the five counties around Mark Twain National Forest’s Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District, and their bird count numbers were as follows: Crawford, 44 species; Iron, 21 species; Madison, 6 species; St. Francois, 32 species; and Washington, 19 species.

Remember to celebrate the Year of the Bird by learning about birds and their habitat needs.

Roger Tory Peterson, the legendary birder and naturalist said it best, “Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we'll soon be in trouble.”

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