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Pennsylvania out birdwatching to build third statewide atlas

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(The Center Square) — The Pennsylvania Game Commission wants residents to grab their binoculars: the 3rd Pennsylvania Bird Atlas approaches.

Partnering with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary on the border of Berks and Schuylkill Counties, the PGC wants the public to help it figure out what birds live in Pennsylvania, where, and how many are out there.

“The atlas will provide a snapshot of the population status and distribution of birds in the Commonwealth,” Game Commission Ornithologist Sean Murphy said in a press release. “No other bird surveys are as comprehensive, and for that reason, the results are critical to the establishment of conservation priorities for Pennsylvania birds.”

Anyone interested in reporting bird sightings through February 2029 can register online at eBird and see what birds have been reported, access a handbook, and get involved.

“The results of this atlas are only useful if the data is robust, meaning the more checklists the better,” said Stefan Karkuff, the Game Commission’s Avian Recovery Biologist. “So it’s really an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation. We need contributors from all corners of the state, especially people who live in the more remote parts where there are fewer birders. Their data is valuable because it helps fill in holes on the map where birds would otherwise go unreported.”

The first bird atlas was done in the 1980s, followed by one in the early 2000s, and showed which bird populations were robust and which were under threat. The third atlas will add a new survey of wintering birds and data that may have been overlooked.

Other states have launched similar efforts. New York is on its third bird atlas, expected to be completed in 2024. Maryland is also in the process of completing its third atlas by 2025.

The Game Commission has put money into other bird-related efforts recently, such as improving habitat for the ruffed grouse — Pennsylvania’s state bird — and reviving the northern bobwhite quail in the state.

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