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Gather your flock (virtually) and join the Backyard Birding Blitz!

Spring is finally here, bringing warmth, energy and birds to our lives! Join us for a virtual birding adventure from your backyard or neighborhood as we collectively try to document as many birds as we can without using fossil fuels.

This is the perfect FREE event for families, those who have never birded in their lives, or for those who have been doing it their whole lives. UEC staff will be on Youtube live answering all your questions on birds throughout the duration of the event including a live banding demonstration from Al Sherkow, Master Bird Bander as he explains bird banding using mists nest which will all be live-streamed. And finally, raffle prizes will be awarded to successful checklist submissions.

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The goal of this event remains to connect people to the wonders of our local birds, but rather than gathering in the same place, we are going to explore our own backyards and neighborhoods. An exciting twist to this virtual format is that anyone can compete in this fun and relaxed birding challenge, whether it is from your backyard, your window, your neighborhood, or your park – as long as you abide by physical distancing guidelines.

You are able to join whether you live in downtown Milwaukee, the north woods of Wisconsin or somewhere in Florida; whether you have never birded before or you are a seasoned birder; whether you are staying at home by yourself or you have a nest full of kids, whether you join from a high-rise apartment, a house or a rural farm - the Backyard Birding Blitz is for EVERYONE!

There are three challenges to pick from in the Backyard Birding Blitz (all times are CST):

  • Home Challenge (via Youtube Live) 7:45-10:45 am: Record as many birds as you can within the limits of what you consider home or consider your place of residence. While you bird from your backyard, stay tuned on Youtube Live as we will go through a live bird banding demonstration where we will observe the processes and discus the education and research value of this method of ornithological study. The challenge will end with Live Nature Themed Trivia along with a raffle prize drawing for those that share a checklist on eBird to the account: UrbanEcoCtr. Optional start at 6:45am.
  • Neighborhood Challenge (via Youtube Live) 7:45-10:45 am: Record as many birds as you can in your neighborhood without using fossil fuels (bikes are permitted). The challenge will end with Live Nature Themed Trivia starting along with a raffle prize drawing for those that share a checklist on eBird to the account: UrbanEcoCtr. Optional start at 6:45 am.
  • Family Challenge (via Zoom) 1-3 pm: Grab the kids and get to know what makes birds different from other animals. Explore the outdoors with your family as we embark on a birding scavenger hunt. Let’s see how many feathers friends we can find outside using monoculars we'll craft ourselves!

Feel free to compete in one or even all three of the challenges! You'll get a link to our YouTube Live channel when you register. This is a collaborative event and we will try to see how many species we record with everyone’s results compiled!

Register for the Backyard Birding Blitz today!

Magnolia Warbler by Bruce Halmo

Magnolia Warbler by Bruce Halmo

A few reminders:

  • You will be recording bird species and also the number of individual birds for each species (i.e. 7 Northern Cardinals)
  • You can count birds you positively identify by sight or sound
  • Try your best not to count the same individual more than once
  • All the data that we compile will be submitted to eBird, an international database that contains millions of observations just like yours and helps contribute to science and conservation decisions from around the world!

Read all the Challenge Guidelines Here

We hope to see you on Saturday, May 8 for this fun and unique challenge as we come together to celebrate birds, community, and ultimately each other! You will get a link when you register.

Register for the Backyard Birding Blitz today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I have never birded before?

Fear not! This is the perfect time to get started. We recommend using a bird book (like the one collecting dust in your attic) or an app on your device to get started. If you have a smartphone or tablet, we highly encourage you to download the Merlin Bird ID app. This free app is very easy to use (and did we mention the free app is free?) If you’re trying to ID a bird it will ask you five questions that will help it narrow down your list of possible species. If you happen to snap a picture of the bird, you can easily upload it into Merlin and it will help identify the bird with surprising accuracy (depending on the quality of the picture). Still nervous? We will have a seasoned birder on staff who will be available to answer any questions LIVE during the entire challenge. Identify birds by sound using the Song Sleuth app which is also free. Instead of using a photograph, record a bird singing on your phone and it will help identify it! (It is very similar to the music app: “Shazam,” that can identify any human song you hear on the radio).

What if I can’t identify a bird?

That’s OK too! It’s a learning experience. We encourage birding with a journal or pad of paper. Write down everything you were able to observe and then you can study it later with references, friends or UEC staff. Remember it’s better to be accurate than precise, so if you see a thrush you can’t identify, better to keep it listed as an unidentified thrush than to guess and potentially be wrong.

What if I don’t have binoculars?

No worries. Backyard birding can be done without binoculars. While they sure help a lot, we know not everyone has a pair. If you have a camera of any kind with a zoom lens (some phone cameras have enough zoom to work as well), it can work in a similar way to binoculars. If you don’t have a camera with zoom, many birds like robins, cardinals, and herons can be identified with the naked eye. Birds that are smaller can still be identified if you patiently wait for them to come closer or view them discreetly through your window. Again, this is a collaborative challenge so feel no pressure if you can’t identify the species.

What if you have never submitted a checklist on eBird before?

Again, fear not! We will guide you through submitting a checklist on eBird between 10:00-10:15 am CDT on the day of the challenge. Just make sure you create an eBird account prior to May 8.

What if I am in another time zone other than Central Time?

If you are in a time zone any other than Central Time, please read below.

a. If you are in a different but reasonable time zone (like birding at 7 am or during the day your time), please be mindful that the event is scheduled in Central Time and that you should participate along with us at our scheduled start time of 8 am Central Time or 11 am Central Time.

b. If you are in an unreasonable time zone (like birding at night or at 3 am) you are welcome to participate in this challenge the day before on Friday, May 8th at a time that works for you. You won’t be able to participate live with us, but you will still be entered into the raffle prize drawing if you share an eBird checklist to UrbanEcoCtr.

How many people can be on a team?

There is no limit to the number of people on your team. You can have teammates from all over the world! We are trying to collect the largest cumulative species list between all participants. However, winning team names as voted on by participants will receive a bonus raffle prize entry!

I'm having a great time at the Blitz! How do I support more events like this?

We're so glad you're enjoying the event! To support the UEC Community Science team and the UEC mission of connecting people to nature and each other, donate here

We hope to see you on May 8!

Register for the Backyard Birding Blitz today!

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Photo by Matt Unrau

Many thanks to our sponsor!



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