The air was filled with the flight of blue jays, buntings and bobolinks Saturday morning when Perry naturalist Ray Harden presented a lecture on backyard birds of Dallas County to about 25 people at Forest Park Museum.
Dallas County Conservation Department naturalist Mike Havlik introduced Harden and invited the audience to participate in the department’s various bird-related activities that begin in March with birding hikes at Voas Nature Area near Minburn.
Harden was joined by Margaret Harden, and they have traveled the world together on birding adventures. The presentation used many photographs taken in the Hardens’ own backyard in Perry.
About 25 birds commonly seen in Iowa were detailed, including the:
- blue jay
- house sparrow, song sparrow and chipping sparrow
- starling, which flocks in “murmurations”
- cardinal mourning dove and collared dove
- Baltimore oriole
- red-bellied woodpecker
- house finch
- white-breasted nuthatch
- black-capped chickadee
- screech owl and barred owl
- northern flicker
- red-tailed hawk and Cooper’s hawk
- brown-headed cow bird
- yellow warbler
- cat bird
- tree sparrow
- dark-eyed junco
- indigo bunting
- house wren
Harden said the bobolink, once very commonly seen in Iowa, is dying off as a result of industrial agriculture and habitat loss. The bobolink annually migrates some 12,000 miles from its breeding grounds in northern Canada to wintering grounds in southernmost South America.
The audience members posed several interesting questions, which Harden answered expertly. Havlik also produced some very realistic bird songs using only his throat.
Dallas County residents can help support local bird populations in several ways, Harden said. Some of these include:
- keeping your cat indoors
- avoiding the use of pesticides, which poison birds via the insects they eat
- planting native plant species, such as grasses and trees
- providing bird baths, bird feeders and bird houses at your residence
- supporting conservation groups
Harden encouraged the audience to consider joining in the 26th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), starting Friday, Feb. 17 and lasting until Monday, Feb. 20, 2023.
The GBBC is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon and Birds Canada. The results are combined with other bird counts to give researchers a clearer picture of how birds are faring—whether individual species are declining, increasing or holding steady in the face of habitat loss, climate change and other threats.
During the four-day GBBC, bird and nature lovers everywhere, of all skill levels and all abilities, unite in the effort to tally as many of the world’s bird species as possible. On Feb. 15 a webinar with project coordinators will show you how to participate in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count.