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Henry M. Robert

Help the birds – count them!

Winter bird census is over in Ukraine. School students in Luhansk oblast are the most active in counting the birds
11 February, 2014 - 10:57
REUTERS photo

The Ukrainian Society for the Protection of Birds is reviewing the results of the Great winter bird count (aka Christmas Bird Count), which lasted from January 10 to 31. It has been traditionally organized in Ukraine since 1996. As a rule, school students take part in the count, submitting the forms with results of their observations to the Society for the Protection of Birds.

The tradition to count winter birds dates back to 1890: ornithologist and editor of Bird-Lore magazine Frank Chapman suggested a new way of winter hunting, not with a gun, but with binoculars. Ever since, the tradition of counting wintering birds, involving school students in this activity, became popular in the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, the Caribbean and Pacific islands.

Various species are counted in various ways, depending on their behavior, features, and nesting. Ukrainian ornithologists do not count wintering birds (bullfinches, tomtits, jays, woodpeckers, etc.) except for, perhaps, geese. Special teams of ornithologists and environmentalists, who are expert in specific geese species, simultaneously go to sites where birds spend the winter, which are located in southern regions, as a rule.

But it is always exciting to watch wintering birds, and this job was given to children. It is done not so much for the sake of statistics as for the sake of education and enlightenment, so kids can learn how to watch the birds, tell one kind from the other, and take care of them.

COMMENTARY

Zoriana LUKIANCHUK, department head, the Ukrainian Society for the Protection of Birds:

“While organizing this count, we focus on children to involve them in the process of watching the birds and feeding them. We ask school students to count the birds near their homes. Before that, we encourage children to make feeders, attracting birds closer to homes and schools. So, this count has a more enlightening purpose. Its results are not reliable, because people involved are amateurs, not experts. Students from Luhansk oblast are the most active, we receive the most forms from there.

“Tomtits are the friendliest, they become accustomed quickly, they are not afraid of people and eat from feeders. And they are the most common. There are birds that come to cities during winter: jays and woodpeckers. They are afraid of feeders, but if the temperature drops really low, then woodpeckers, for example, eat lard and nuts. Bullfinches come to Ukraine for the winter, and their winter stay depends on the amount of feed they can find near their nesting sites (which are farther to the north). If there is no feed, they can come here. Speaking of Kyiv, bullfinches are sighted more and more rarely here. They are regularly sighted on Trukhaniv Island, in woodland parks, but it is almost impossible to see them in the city.”

By Oksana MYKOLIUK, The Day
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