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Bird's the word: Annual Christmas bird count to be held at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

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Pheasants seeks shelter amidst chilling winter weather. (Photography by Craig Armstrong, amateur wildlife photographer)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park invites birding enthusiasts of all abilities to participate in the nationwide Audubon Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, January 4, 2020. The event is free.

Volunteer birders wishing to participate should meet at the South Unit Visitor Center at 8:00 a.m.

MST. Before going out into the field, participants will be assigned to teams which will survey areas by driving and walking to record bird sightings. Participants arriving later in the day should stop by the visitor center for guidance and maps.

“You don’t have to be an expert to take part in the Christmas Bird Count,” said Park Ranger Amy

McCann. “Beginners can team up with more experienced birders to learn birding basics and everyone can try to add to their life lists. Birding is a great outdoor family activity that people of all ages can enjoy for a lifetime.”

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The annual Audubon event, now in its 120th year, was, according to the group’s website, founded in 1896 by Harriet Hemenway and Minna B. Hall of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, who were outraged at the the slaughter of millions of waterbirds, particularly egrets and other waders, for the millinery trade. The idea quickly spread throughout the country and now, the yearly bird count is the world’s longest running citizen science event.

The area covered by this year’s count at TRNP encompasses a 7 1/2 mile radius around Medora, North Dakota and will be the 42nd year for the Medora Area Count. Over 65 different species have been sighted during these counts, including many that can only be found in the area during the winter.

Data collected during the count is used to track trends and the general health of bird populations and is used to inform management decisions and scientific studies. As of 2018, more than 300 peer-reviewed articles have been generated using the findings from analysis conducted during the Christmas Bird Count.

National parks and other public lands play an important role in providing essential habitat for many bird species to winter, breed, and/or stop to rest while migrating.

The tradition of counting birds combined with modern technology and satellite mapping capabilities has enabled researchers to make discoveries that were not possible in earlier decades.

With the program, volunteers break up into small parties and follow assigned routes, which change little from year to year. The goal is for them to count every bird they see. Volunteers who are beginning "birders," will be able to join a group including at least one experienced birdwatcher.

Participants are encouraged to bring a packed lunch, drinking water, warm clothing and footwear. Binoculars, field guides and spotting scopes are suggested.

For more information pertaining to areas in North Dakota that conduct annual bird counts, visit https://www.audubon.org/conservation/join-christmas-bird-count .

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For more information about Theodore Roosevelt National Park, please visit the park’s website at

www.nps.gov/thro. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is on social media. Follow the park on Twitter @TRooseveltNPS and “like” them on their Facebook page at

www.facebook.com/TheodoreRooseveltNationalPark.

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