May 22—The state Department of Environmental Conservation has begun its I BIRD NY challenges for beginning and experienced birders. Two levels of challenges provide the opportunity to identify birds and learn about birdlife and offer a chance to win birding equipment.
The I Bird NY Beginner's Birding Challenge is open to anyone 16 years of age and younger. To complete the Beginner's Birding Challenge, participants must identify 10 common New York bird species and submit their challenge sheet to DEC. Entries can be mailed or emailed. All challenge participants will receive a certificate of participation and be entered into a random drawing for a chance to win birding accessories.
Birding enthusiasts can visit I Bird NY to access this year's challenge sheets, as well as find information on where and how to watch birds, upcoming bird walks or other events, a downloadable Beginner's Guide to Birding (also available in Spanish), and additional resources.
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 explore the great outdoors and connect with nature. New York also has 59 designated Bird Conservation Areas to safeguard and enhance bird populations and habitats on State lands and waters.
"No matter where you live or where you come from, birdwatching is a fun, safe activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds," Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "This is a particularly great time of year to take up birding or take your birding skills to the next level by observing the many spring migrants arriving every day, particularly here in upstate New York."
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, supporting more than 450 different bird species throughout the year.
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 watch birds wherever they live, work, or play, birdwatching is an accessible activity that does not require transportation or the purchase of specialized equipment.
"Taking part in the I BIRD NY challenges are a sure way to grow and enrich an appreciation for the natural world," said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. "New York State Parks offer exceptional places for people to see and learn about a diverse species of birds in their native habitats — and we welcome participants to visit."
Birdwatching is one of the fastest-growing outdoor recreational activities in the U.S. 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.
In addition to the Beginner's Birding Challenge, DEC is offering the I Bird NY Experienced Birder Challenge. To complete the experienced birder challenge, birders of any age must identify at least 10 different bird species found across New York State. All participants in this challenge will also receive a certificate of participation and be entered into a drawing for birding accessories.