Georgia birding competition returns to its pre-pandemic roots
Feb. 25—SOCIAL CIRCLE — Georgia's popular Youth Birding Competition returns to its roots this year while still offering the wider timeframe for birding adopted during the pandemic.
The 17th annual birdathon held by the state Department of Natural Resources and partners is set for April 14-22, with an awards ceremony and banquet the last evening at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield. Teams of kindergarteners through high-schoolers will pick a 24-hour stretch during the nine-day span and compete by age group to find the most birds statewide before 5 p.m. April 22.
Following three years of COVID-forced changes and even cancellations, the 2023 competition will again include the contest-ending in-person banquet for all teams at Charlie Elliott's conference center, about an hour east of Atlanta. Coordinators say they feel comfortable with reinstituting the banquet and ceremony for everyone who competes, event founder and a DNR Wildlife Biologist Tim Keyes said in a news release.
"We are thrilled to be able to offer a full in-person event again this year, and we are looking forward to seeing everybody again," Keyes said.
The wildlife biologist added that this year's competition will include two changes made last year: the weekplus window in which teams can bird (the traditional event covered only the 24 hours prior to the banquet) and the option for teams to electronically submit their birding checklists early (allowing judges to review them before teams check in at Charlie Elliott conference center for the banquet and awards ceremony).
The goal of the birding competition is encouraging an awareness and appreciation of Georgia's birds and the outdoors. About 100 students take part each year. Keyes said he is hoping even more organizations, from Scouts and schools to nature centers and birding groups, enter or sponsor a team this year.
Register at https://georgiawildlife.com/ybc. The deadline is March 31.
The event is free and birding expertise is not required. Mentors are available to help beginning teams.
There is also a companion T-shirt Art Contest (https://georgiawildlife.com/YBCTshirtArtContest). Participation on a birding team is encouraged but not required. Art entries are due by March 13.
Sponsors of the Youth Birding Competition include The Environmental Resources Network or TERN — friends group of DNR's Wildlife Conservation Section — Georgia Ornithological Society and the Georgia and Albany Audubon societies.
What: Fun, free event engaging students in the outdoors and learning about birds. Participants will receive a T-shirt and (most likely) prizes.
When: Bird during a 24-hour period from 5 p.m. April 14 to 5 p.m. April 22. Banquet and awards ceremony is 5:30 p.m. April 22 at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center (Mansfield).
Where: Bird anywhere in Georgia but check in at the Charlie Elliott conference center by 5 p.m. April 22.
Registration: Sign up at https://georgiawildlife.com/ybc by March 31.