PRESQUE ISLE, Maine - The Aroostook Birders spent Saturday in Presque Isle counting various species at places like the duck pond behind the hospital, and even at the landfill. Kathy McCarty spoke with a member of the club to find out how the numbers are used.
The annual Christmas Bird Count took place over the weekend, with members of the Aroostook Birders counting everything from pigeons to ducks, crows to sparrows. What may seem like a simple pastime actually serves a bigger purpose - one that dates back more than 100 years.
"The National Audubon compiles all the national numbers, and they keep a huge database and a lot of people - biologists and scientists, ornithologists - compare those numbers, because it's a nationwide survey of the population of the birds in the winter. It's been done - this is the 119th year it's been done. So it's a real big database."
Bird species are tracked on a yearly basis, giving officials a better picture of how everything from spreading civilization to temperature changes impact our feathered friends.
"They're able to compare how populations are doing and see trends. Certainly birds that normally spend their winters in the south are being found further and further north as climate change warms up. And certainly the increase in people who have bird feeders - because it's more and more popular every year, so birds are able to get food, so they're able to winter over and stay."
As smaller birds change their habits, so too do birds of prey who feed on them.
"Then you see a related increase in birds that eat birds, like hawks, stay north and will be up chasing birds at feeders. So you get that increase in those species."
Sheehan says the data can be accessed online, using charts and graphs to show what the various populations of birds are doing from year to year. For more information, visit the Aroostook Birders website, or audubon.org.