Counting Birds In The Quad Cities - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Counting Birds In The Quad Cities

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Bird watchers and biologists have spent the last three weeks counting birds across the country, including right here in the QCA.

They've been doing it for the past one hundred 13 years, compiling information that not only helps scientists track where birds live, but also gives them an idea about the health of our environment.

Volunteers count birds at eight different spots throughout the Quad Cities.

Stretching from Savanna, IL, south to Mercer County.

Song birds, ducks, anything with feathers needs to be counted.

Creating a picture of bird populations for scientists to study.

"We count everything, if it's got feathers we count it, so all birds," says bird biologist Kelly McKay.

Using an owl call, McKay counts the birds he finds in a 15 mile circle around Andalusia. Stopping at 50 spots, recording every bird he finds.

"There's a Flicker and a Cardinal," says McKay.

His bird tallies will join other data collected by groups out in the field and bird watchers tracking their feeders. The data helps scientists examine where birds live. It's one of the longest wildlife surveys ever done in the world.

"When you take this data from all these count circles across the entire Western hemisphere, it gives avian biologists a pretty good snapshot about what's going on with bird populations," says McKay.

The pictures developed over the years though, trouble McKay.

"The winter ranges of a lot of these birds is shifting farther north for instance today, I've seen lots of Robins, Bluebirds, Waxwings," says McKay.

Birds that should be living much farther south from here.

"20 or 30 years ago they were almost unheard of on Midwestern Christmas Bird Counts and now we routinely find them and often times in fairly substantial numbers," says McKay.

McKay says the shifting bird ranges provide another piece of evidence the climate is getting warmer.

"It's just one more piece of evidence among the large number of pieces out there and you know you fit all those pieces together and it makes a pretty clear map basically," says McKay.

A change he hopes won't devastate the birds he loves.

"Everything, what's not to like," says McKay.

McKay is also using this years bird count to conduct an experiment, trying to determine whether a single owl call, or an owl call combined with a bird screech, is better at attracting song birds.