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Mar. 25—ALBANY — New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the start of the 2024 ‘I BIRD NY’ Challenge for birders of all ages and abilities. The challenge provides opportunities to identify birds and learn about birdlife and awards program finishers with a commemorative I BIRD NY Challenge patch and the chance to win birding equipment.

“New York State’s wide-ranging habitat types, from the Atlantic Ocean’s sandy beaches to majestic Catskill and Adirondack peaks, Great Lakes shorelines, and everything in between, create a birder’s paradise for residents and visitors year-round,” Seggos said. “I encourage birdwatchers to get outside and check out the 450 different bird species that call New York home.”

New York has more than 350 Birding Trail locations and new locations are added often, making it even easier for New Yorkers to get started with this fun activity. Birdwatching is one of the fastest-growing outdoor recreational activities in the U.S. According to the 2022 National Survey of Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 7.4 million wildlife watchers generated $10.8 billion in New York State in 2022. This is up from an estimated four million New York resident wildlife viewers spending more than $6.4 billion annually in 2016.

Backyard birding, or watching birds close to home, is the most common way people engage in birding. As a birder’s skill and interest develop, there are several opportunities to contribute to scientific knowledge about birds and the natural world. Programs like eBird, New York’s Breeding Bird Atlas, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch, and the Great Backyard Bird Count rely on volunteer birders to contribute sightings to a centralized database.

The I BIRD NY program was launched in 2017 to build on the State’s efforts to increase access to New York’s vast natural resources and promote no- and low-cost opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and connect with nature. The annual birding challenge saw a 745 percent increase in participation in 2023, with 1,226 birding enthusiasts completing this fun challenge.

I BIRD NY is just one of DEC’s ongoing efforts to engage New Yorkers in nature-based activities that provide a fun opportunity for the entire family to learn about the natural world. Because people can observe birds wherever they live, work, or recreate, birding is an accessible activity that does not require transportation or the purchase of specialized equipment. Birdwatching can be enjoyed by people from all economic backgrounds and education levels. While binoculars can help, many birds can be identified without them.

“Early spring is an exciting time to observe birds as they engage in fascinating behavior like establishing territories, finding a mate, and gathering nest materials. Others are just starting to arrive from their wintering grounds, and some will only be passing through. By staying quiet and moving slowly, you’ll maximize your chances of seeing the birds that are around you. We recommend visiting the New York State Birding Trail for its unique and accessible settings,” Michael Burger, executive director, Audubon Connecticut and New York, said.

“Birds are awesome!” said Maisie, 10, and Sam, 14, members of the WNY Young Birder Club.

“The ‘I BIRD NY’ Challenge not only offers an inclusive and hands-on approach, but also provides a fun, low-cost way to explore the beauty in our own backyards, neighborhoods, and New York’s natural areas. By participating, people will actively contribute to a collective celebration that highlights the significance of birds in our world,” Lauren Makeyenko, co-chair, Feminist Bird Club’s Buffalo Chapter, said.

The 2024 I BIRD NY Challenge is open to all ages and ends on Nov. 1, 2024. To complete the Challenge, participants must identify 10 bird species of their choosing and submit a challenge sheet to DEC. Challenge sheets may be submitted online via Survey Monkey or sent via email or mail. Entries must be received by Nov. 15. Entry forms are also available in Spanish All participants will be awarded a commemorative patch, given a completion certificate, and entered into a drawing for great birding prizes. Two youth and two adult winners will be chosen. Participants will also receive an extra prize entry for providing a photo documenting their challenge experience. As an extra bonus, the first 50 participants will receive a special goodie bag of birding swag items.

Birding enthusiasts can visit I BIRD NY to access this year’s challenge sheet, as well as find information on where and how to watch birds, upcoming birding events, a downloadable Beginner’s Guide to Birding (also available in Spanish), and additional resources. Those interested may also opt to sign up for DEC’s monthly birding newsletter, Words of a Feather, to have birding tips and tricks, New York State Birding Trail site recommendations, events, and more delivered right to one’s inbox.

As always, participants are encouraged to Love Our New York Lands this year by practicing Leave No Trace principles and by recreating safely and sustainably.



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