I Bird NY Encourages New Yorkers of All Ages, Abilities, and Backgrounds to Enjoy Birding

Visit AdventureAtHome to Learn How to Start Birding from Your Yard or Living Room

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the start of the 2020 “I BIRD NY” challenges for beginner and experienced birders. The I BIRD NY program was launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2017, to build on the State’s efforts to increase access to New York’s vast natural resources and promote low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and connect with nature.

“No matter where you live, birding can be enjoyed by New Yorkers of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds,” DEC Commissioner Seggos said. “With the arrival of spring migratory birds and warmer weather, June is the perfect time of year to enjoy birdwatching close to home. I BIRD NY is just one of DEC’s ongoing efforts to engage New Yorkers who may not have spent time enjoying nature in the past, but who realize the excitement of getting outdoors and experiencing the abundant wildlife around us. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, getting outside for a nature break is more important than ever and DEC will continue to encourage new and experienced naturalists alike to participate safely and responsibly in birding and other outdoors activities.”

Bird watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities in the U.S. Backyard birding, or watching birds around the home, is the most common way people engage in birding. New York State is home to a wide range of habitats that support more than 450 different bird species throughout the year. In New York, there are also 59 designated Bird Conservation Areas to safeguard and enhance bird populations and habitats on State lands and waters across the state. The State’s I Bird NY program provides resources for New Yorkers who would like to get outdoors and engage in birding all year long.

The joy of birdwatching is experienced by people from all economic backgrounds and education levels. While binoculars can help, enjoying birds can be done without any special equipment. DEC is hosting its annual I Bird NY Beginner’s Birding Challenge (PDF), which 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 participants in this challenge will receive a certificate of participation and be entered into a random drawing for a chance to win birding accessories.

In addition to the Beginner’s Birding Challenge, DEC is offering the I Bird NY Experienced Birder Challenge (PDF). To complete the 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.

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, and other events, a downloadable Beginner’s Guide to Birding (PDF) (also available in Spanish), and additional resources.

“A silver lining in these challenging times is that more people are tuning in to the joy of birds. The ‘I Bird NY’ challenge offers a unique opportunity for people of any age, ability, or location to try birding,” said Audubon New York Executive Director Ana Paula Tavares. “We encourage everyone to look outside with fresh eyes. Share what you see, tell others about it, submit data to eBird, and play a role in making the outdoors safe and welcoming for all people and wildlife.”

Also starting this year, five years of field surveys are being conducted by volunteers and project partners to provide data that will be analyzed to create the third New York State Breeding Bird Atlas. Similar to the 2020 Census to track human populations and trends, the Breeding Bird Atlas is a valuable tool to help protect birds and their habitat. To participate, volunteers can make a free eBird account and submit data online through the atlas website (leaves DEC’s website) or via the eBird mobile app. Simply record the species and any breeding behaviors observed. All sightings can count. As observations are reported, data can be viewed on the atlas website (leaves DEC’s website).

While enjoying the outdoors, please continue to follow the CDC/NYSDOH’s guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:

  • Stay home if you are sick, or showing or feeling any COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, coughing, and/or troubled breathing
  • Practice social distancing. Keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others even when outdoors
  • Wear a mask when you cannot maintain social distancing
  • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, kissing, or sharing equipment like binoculars
  • Wash hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available

#AdventureAtHome: Looking for an at-home adventure? DEC is featuring special #AdventureAtHome content, and on Facebook and Instagram, with new, live specials, videos, and at-home tools and games for New Yorkers who are homebound or cannot go far for a nature break. Visit #Adventureathome.

In addition, the National Audubon Society is celebrating Pride Month with “Let’s Go Birding Together” virtual events. These events allow those who identify as LGBTQ, allies, families, and anyone to experience an inclusive activity linking them to birds and the natural world.