Bird counts afford an opportunity to watch birds and to contribute to a growing base of knowledge.
Thanksgiving Bird Counts, as the name suggests, take place on Thanksgiving day. Not as well known as the Christmas Bird Count, Thanksgiving counts were begun in 1966.
In 2002 more than 450 people from Alaska and 11 western states contributed to the count. The most common species seen in western states last year was the house sparrow. The other top 10 birds were house finch, dark-eyed junco, mourning dove, black-capped chickadee, white-crowned sparrow, California quail, Steller's jay, American goldfinch, and European starling.
The count takes only one hour and participants can choose the time that best suits their holiday schedule.
The Thanksgiving Bird Count is made in a circle 15 feet in diameter. This circle usually includes whatever attracts birds, such as feeders, baths or cover. Most participants select a count area visible from a comfortable spot near a window, where they can share the holiday and birding with family and friends.
The count also may take place in a favorite birding area away from home. It is important to try not to count any individual bird more than once. Counters should send in reports even if no birds are seen during the count hour. Results are recorded on a form available from Juneau Audubon Society at 789-4656.
Participation can make a significant contribution to understanding of bird populations and behavior.
Judy Shuler is a member of the Juneau Audubon Society.