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I Bird NY Challenge takes flight for fledgling and experienced enthusiasts of all ages

Posted 3/16/23

State officials on Monday announced the start of the 2023 I BIRD NY Challenge for birders of all ages and abilities.

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I Bird NY Challenge takes flight for fledgling and experienced enthusiasts of all ages


ALBANY — State officials on Monday announced the start of the 2023 I BIRD NY Challenge for birders of all ages and abilities.

The challenge provides opportunities to identify and learn about birds and awards participants who finish the program with a commemorative I BIRD NY Challenge patch and the chance to win birding equipment.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has updated the challenge format this year to feature a single challenge for all ages and abilities, the announcement said.

“No matter where you live or where you come from, birdwatching is a fun, easy, and affordable activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, abilities, identities, and backgrounds,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

“With spring migration in full swing, it’s a great time of year to take up birding or take your birding skills to the next level by observing birds on the diverse variety of habitats found in New York State,” the DEC commissioner added.

New York state’s wide-ranging habitat types, from the Atlantic Ocean’s sandy beaches to majestic Catskill and Adirondack peaks, Great Lakes shorelines, and everything in between, create a birder’s paradise, supporting more than 450 different bird species throughout the year, the announcement said.

New York has many Birding Trail locations, including several in and around the Mohawk Valley and Central New York, the DEC said, and new ones are constantly being added.

Among the most popular sites in the region is the Montezuma Aubodon Center, west of Syracuse, which contains an eagle sculpture similar to the one on the Griffiss Business and Technology Park roundabout created by artist James Seaman.

“(The) Montezuma Audubon Center, one of 41 National Audubon Society centers, is thrilled to welcome visitors to the New York State Birding Trail where you can paddle to search for secretive marsh birds and shorebirds and hike to experience melodious songbirds and migratory waterfowl,” said Chris Lajewski, director at Montezuma Audubon Center in Savannah.

“Montezuma’s forests, wetlands, grasslands and waterways are critical to the health of birds and people. Nearly 300 bird species, including threatened and endangered species like the black tern, pied-billed grebe and northern harrier, are found across this unique mosaic of habitats,” Lajewski said.

“(The) Montezuma Audubon Center encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the pleasures of birding along the New York State Birding Trail and take the I BIRD NY Challenge, and we’re delighted that more New Yorkers now have the opportunity to take part in this joyful activity,” the Montezuma Audubon Center director added.

Other popular sites for birdwatching during the spring migration include Oneida Lake both from Sylvan Beach and the Verona Beach State Park as well as Lake Ontario at Oswego.

Birdwatching is one of the fastest-growing outdoor recreational activities in the country, officials said.

Backyard birding, or watching birds close to home, is the most common way people engage in birding.

As a birder’s skill and interest develop, there are several opportunities to contribute to scientific knowledge about birds and the natural world, according to DEC officials.

Programs like eBird, New York’s Breeding Bird Atlas, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch, and the Great Backyard Bird Count rely on volunteer birders to contribute sightings to a centralized database. The database is an essential tool for conservationists and environmental groups to determine bird health and inform efforts to improve bird populations across the state and region.

The I BIRD NY program was launched in 2017 to build on the state’s efforts to increase access to New York’s vast natural resources and promote no- and low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and connect with nature.

I BIRD NY is just one of DEC’s ongoing efforts to engage New Yorkers in nature-based activities that provide a fun opportunity for the entire family to learn about the natural world.

Because people can observe birds wherever they live, work, or recreate, birding is an accessible activity that does not require transportation or the purchase of specialized equipment.

Birdwatching can be enjoyed by people from all economic backgrounds and education levels, the DEC announcement added.

While binoculars can help, many birds can be identified without them.

The 2023 I BIRD NY Challenge is open to all ages and ends on Nov. 1. To complete the challenge, participants are required to identify any 10 bird species of their choosing and submit a challenge sheet to DEC that can be found at DEC’s website.

Challenge sheets may be submitted online via Survey Monkey (leaves DEC website) or sent via email or mail. Entries must be received by Nov. 17. 

All participants will be awarded a commemorative patch, given a completion certificate, and entered into a drawing for great birding prizes. Two youth and two adult winners will be chosen.

Participants will also receive an extra prize entry for providing a photo documenting their challenge experience. As an extra bonus, the first 50 participants will receive a special goodie bag of birding swag items.

Birding enthusiasts can visit I Bird NY webpage at to access this year’s challenge sheets, as well as find information on where and how to watch birds, upcoming birding events, a downloadable Beginner’s Guide to Birding (also available in Spanish), and additional resources.

Those interested may also opt to sign up for DEC’s monthly birding newsletter, Words of a Feather, to have birding tips and tricks, New York State Birding Trail site recommendations, events, and more delivered right to one’s inbox.


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