It’s time for young birders to begin honing their bird-identifying skills as they prepare for the 12th annual Georgia Youth Birding Competition, set for April 29-30.
Registration is open and online at www.georgiawildlife.com/YBC.
This fun, free competition has been connecting young people with wildlife and having a positive impact on conservation for more than a decade. The reach extends even beyond Georgia, with Race 4 Birds Foundation (www.race4birds.org) using the event as a model for youth birding competitions nationwide, including in Illinois, North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania.
Coordinator Tim Keyes of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is enthusiastic about the future.
"We will continue growing an enduring passion for birds and the outdoors with every year’s event in Georgia, and inspire a growing number of events around the U.S.," said Keyes, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section.
He said the Youth Birding Competition has developed "amazing competitors" who have gone on to study biology in college. Some former birding novices are now veterans, and bringing younger children under their wing in birding. The event has inspired a young birders club, a growing network of young birders connected through social media and participation in American Birding Association and Audubon Society camps for youth.
The competition also continues to set state records for birding youth. The top team in 2016 identified 170 species, the second consecutive all-time high for the event.
The fun gets going April 29-30 when the 24-hour statewide birdathon for teams varying in ages from kindergarteners to high school seniors returns. The deadline to register is March 31. Complete information, including online registration, is at www.georgiawildlife.com/YBC.
The competition and an accompanying T-shirt Art Contest are sponsored by DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division, The Environmental Resources Network Inc. (TERN) - friends group of the Nongame Conservation Section - and others including the Georgia Ornithological Society and the Atlanta and Albany Audubon societies. A banquet and awards ceremony will be held April 30 at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield.
Teams register online in one of four age divisions and compete against other groups their age. Participants can also volunteer to raise money for conservation organizations. The Youth Birding Competition is designed for youth of all skill levels. Those new to birding can take advantage of mentoring opportunities offered through the competition.
As a voluntary part of the competition, teams also raise money for conservation. This year’s pledges pushed past $20,000 the total raised over the event’s 11 years.