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Pennsylvania Game Commission Urges Participation In Christmas Bird Count

"Some of these species are much easier to count or monitor in winter because their breeding ground is so far north in areas where there are few people or roads to give access to habitat," Brauning said. "An example of this is the rusty blackbird that migrates from the boreal taiga forests of Canada and Alaska to the southeastern United States in winter. Pennsylvania is on the northern edge of its winter range, and some CBCs do count this declining wetland songbird. Hawks also are more easily counted in winter and our state is a good place to see several hawk species in winter, including red-tailed hawks and rough-legged hawks."

Brauning also noted that the CBC is a good way to introduce beginners to bird identification.  It is much easier to find birds through your binoculars when there are few leaves on the trees to hide them from view.

"There are fewer bird species around in winter than at other times of year, so it is easier to learn bird species identification," Brauning said. "Also, birds are easier to spot because the trees lack the leaves that hide birds from your eyes in spring and summer. In fact, many birders got started in this hobby in winter in a car with more experienced birders on a Christmas count. CBC allows for mentoring in the field. For best results, spend some time scouting your area. Rather than spending a day in the car, get out and walk the back roads and land where you have permission to go birding.

"A wide variety of birds are observed in winter counts including an assortment of songbirds and our upland game birds, which are mostly residents. It is a challenge, for instance, to find a ruffed grouse on a CBC in many circles. People go out of their way to find a wintering woodcock around spring seeps, in wet pastures, or along streams. Birders learn more about habitat associations and the value of cover and food sources to birds, such as winterberry, rose hips and sumac. Bluebirds, hermit thrushes, and American robins are often found in grape arbors, sumac patches, or other places where wild fruits are located." 

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