The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Winter Bird Feeder Survey starts Jan. 5 and gives wildlife enthusiasts and their families an exciting way to kick off the New Year.

Attracting birds and maintaining backyard feeders for wintering birds is popular in both urban and rural areas of Oklahoma. People in both places can help the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation by participating in the survey while also getting close-up views of a number of unique birds.

Any Oklahoman with a backyard bird feeder can participate by choosing any two days between Jan. 5-8 to count birds at their feeders and record their observations. And according to Rachel Bradley, wildlife diversity specialist for the Wildlife Department, attracting birds to backyard feeders is not difficult.

“Just provide food, water and some cover,” Bradley said.

With participants observing birds across the state for four days straight, biologists can obtain important information that can help the Department better understand bird ranges and populations.

“Citizens scientists’ participation in the survey helps biologists gather information from a greater area in a shorter amount of time,” Bradley said.

Currently biologists have documented more than 20 year’s worth of upward and downward trends of birds visiting winter feeders thanks to the support of avid birders across the state.

The survey includes counting birds at backyard feeders at least four times a day for two days during the survey dates and completing a form provided by the Wildlife Department. For detailed instructions and to take the survey, log on to the Wildlife Department’s Winter Bird Feeder Survey website at okwinterbirds.com. The website is an extensive bird-watching resource that provides species identification tips, bird diets, feeding behaviors and winter ranges as well as links to other birding websites. The site also details how to draw birds to backyard feeders using homemade bird attractants that are both healthy and beneficial to wintering birds.

While anyone who has a bird feeder can participate in the 2012 Winter Bird Feeder Survey, certain efforts can be made to attract more birds to feeders. Black-oil sunflower seed is a good choice for bird feeders because of its high protein content for birds during the winter and because virtually all seed-eating Oklahoma songbirds will eat it. Other seed options are white proso millet, nyjer (“thistle”) or safflower. Suet cakes — animal fat that is sometimes mixed with grains or peanut butter, are good for drawing in species such as woodpeckers and birds that do not primarily eat seeds. Finally, a source of water and cover such as brush piles or dense shrubs located near the feeders helps draw more birds.

Among the top birds seen last year at backyard feeders during the survey were the American goldfinch, dark-eyed junco, red-winged blackbird, northern cardinal, mourning dove, house finch, Carolina chickadee and blue jay, but participants also documented sightings of wild turkeys, warblers, kinglets and others.

To learn more about the survey or to participate, log on to okwinterbirds.com.

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