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This Valentine’s Weekend, Share Your Love . . . of Birds!

By David Magpiong
A Pileated Woodpecker father feeds his youngsters. Photo by QC52 via Birdshare.

Any day is a great day to share your love for birds, but this weekend offers the added bonus of the Great Backyard Bird Count (February 12-15, 2016) and Valentine’s Day. Why not spend some time helping others discover the beauty of their local birds? By sharing your passion with someone you love, you’ll give the gift of perpetual joy as they can savor the sights and sounds of birds every day. Sharing your love of birds also serves an important function. Those newly enamored with birds are primed to support or engage in bird conservation. All they need is their mentor to give them a little nudge in the right direction.

In other words, now is a great time to “Pledge to Fledge” a new birder by introducing someone new to birding. All it takes is deciding that you’d like to share your enthusiasm and knowledge of birds with others and, if you like, making the pledge on the Great Backyard Bird Count website.

The Great Backyard Bird Count provides the perfect opportunity to help fledge a birder while also contributing to our understanding of bird distribution and populations in the middle of winter. Bird enthusiasts on every continent will be watching birds, counting each species they observe, and submitting their data.

Participating in the GBBC with a few “new to birding” friends is a fun way to promote conservation. Plus, it requires very little, if any, extra effort to do so!

Invite a friend or worker to join you on a brief bird walk at your local park. They can enjoy the woodpecker, waxwing, or occasional waterfowl. Demonstrate the differences between our invading House Sparrows and our native species such as the Song Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows.

Birding is better with a friend. Photographer Shuvendu Das' great photo was the 2nd place winner in the 2015 GBBC
Birding is better with a friend. Photographer Shuvendu Das' great photo was the 2nd place winner in the 2015 GBBC "People" category. Photo by Shuvendu Das, India.

Why not even have a few neighbors over for a GBBC party? You can enjoy some savory snacks and favorite beverages while surveying the birds in your yard. Recruit their counting skills for the Dark-eyed Juncos and European Starlings. Point out the American Goldfinches and White-breasted Nuthatches. Challenge them to spot a Northern Flicker or Brown Creeper.

If needed, you can use your field guides or the All About Bird species guide to give them a quick tutorial in the expected species. What if they spot a mystery bird? Show them how the Cornell Lab’s Merlin Bird ID app leads them through give questions to help them solve the identity of any unknown birds. Snap a photo that you can upload along with your GBBC checklist.

After you’ve compiled your sightings, log on to or use the eBird app to submit your information using an Android or iOS device. As birders on every continent do the same thing, we will get a snapshot of the world’s bird populations and distribution. Then, you and your fellow GBBC partiers can explore sightings from other eBirders around the world.

Fifth Place People Tom Hissong, Ohio
People of all ages can engage in birding. Photo by Tom Hissong, Ohio.

What other species are being seen in your state or province? Check out far-flung birding hot spots like Costa Rica, South Africa, or Australia. Has anyone seen a Blue-crowned Motmot? Amethyst Sunbird? White-bellied Sea-Eagle? Not only will they learn about global avian diversity, they will also witness the breadth of the birding community and realize that birding is, in fact, quite a dynamic and popular activity.

Exploring the GBBC data in real time can even open the door to bird conservation conversations. Did anyone spot Spoon-billed Sandpipers? Why is this species so rarely reported? Do your new GBBC partners know that by simply choosing shade-grown coffee rather than sun-grown coffee, they can help many birds including our Neotropical migrants like orioles, tanagers, and warblers? There are so many ways to talk about why birds matter and how our actions can help.

So . . .

Are you ready to wield your bird knowledge to help brighten people’s lives and promote bird conservation? If so, make a Pledge to Fledge and use the Great Backyard Bird Count to kick off your new birding friendship on Valentine’s Day weekend.

Dave Magpiong started the Fledging Birders Institute and is a cofounder of the Pledge to Fledge movement.

Make a Pledge to Fledge

Sign up for Pledge to Fledge and receive a free PDF with information and ideas for how to introduce others to birding.

You might also want too check out the Pledge to Fledge Community on Facebook.

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library