Birders in Alabama, like birders everywhere, are generally an outdoorsy bunch, and many of them had to be champing at the bit to do something, anything, when COVID-19 forced them to stay home.
So to encourage them to continue to bird watch while still abiding by coronavirus guidelines, and mostly just to do some good in these trying times, the Alabama Ornithological Society and Alabama Birding Trails challenged the state’s birders to Backyard Bird to Fight COVID-19.
The birders accepted the challenge by agreeing to bird in their yard only – AOS and ABT did not want to encourage leaving home – on the Saturday before Easter. The birders could solicit pledges per species from friends as well as pledging an amount per species themselves. Then on Saturday, they recorded as many species as they could identify from their yard (or within a short walk for those without a yard) at any point during the day. Participants could sign up either on the Alabama Birding Trails Facebook page or by emailing the Alabama Ornithological Society.
Participants and those who pledged were instructed to send their donations directly to COVID-related charities either in their community or others acting statewide. While neither AOS nor ABT recommended any specific charity, the majority of birders reported donating directly to a COVID-related charity, with many choosing groups who focused on feeding people.
By the end of the challenge day, 27 birders scattered from Dauphin Island to North Alabama had identified 127 species of birds and raised $1,703 for charities to help those affected by COVID-19 and its economic impact. (A few others reported on Facebook that they participated but did not report a donation amount.)
Donations ranged from $1 per species identified by each individual to $6 per species. But many of the participants rounded up their donations by a considerable amount.
Participants included: Dwight Cooley, Caila Lamont, Eugenia Carey, Jennie Stowers, Dee Gertler, Eric Soehren, Ken Wills, Greg Harber, Joe Watts, Anne Miller, Geoff Hill and Wendy Hood, Cheryl Killingsworth and Jim McMinn, Larry Gardella, Stan and Dana Hamilton, Shirley Farrell, Ken and Julie Hare, Annabel Markle, Ken and Rufina Ward, Molly Folkerts Caldwell, Don and Dena McKee, and Lisa Comer.
Several birders had “backyards” perfect for seeing a wide range of bird species – yards consisting of many acres, or yards overlooking a pond. A couple of participants live on Dauphin Island overlooking the Mississippi Sound, others near Mobile Bay. But many also lived in typical suburban settings where the species they saw focused on birds coming to feeders.
Among the 127 species identified were Bald Eagle; Osprey; American Oystercatcher; Black Skimmer; Black-crowned Night-Heron; Red-shouldered, Red-tailed and Broad-winged hawks; Peregrine Falcon; White-winged Dove; and several types of woodpeckers – Red-bellied, Pileated, Downy, Northern Flicker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Warblers included Worm-eating, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black and White, Prothonotary, Tennessee, Kentucky, Hooded, American Redstart, Palm, Black-throated Green, and others.
Here is the full list:
Eurasian Collared Dove
Great Blue Heron
Eastern Screech Owl
Great Horned Owl
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler