Working together for bird conservation
By Erin Rowa, Michigan DNR, Audubon Great Lakes
LANSING — In the midst of a cold, sometimes dreary winter season, many people don’t think about birds, which are often considered harbingers of spring.
But a great variety of birds can be found throughout Michigan all winter long, both those that migrate from colder climates, like dark-eyed juncos and common redpolls, and those that are here year-round, such as white-breasted nuthatches and northern cardinals.
Efforts to monitor bird populations also don’t stop over the winter. Scientists need help from the public in collecting important citizen science data through winter bird counts, which help them better understand winter bird movements and population health.
Encouraging Michiganders to get involved in citizen science opportunities – and bird conservation overall – is the aim of MI Birds, a bird-focused outreach and engagement program jointly founded in 2016 by Audubon Great Lakes and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
The program focuses on bridging gaps between the hunting and birding communities and increasing all Michiganders’ engagement in the understanding, care and stewardship of public lands important for birds and people.
A steering committee with members from a dozen conservation organizations, some focused on game species and others on wildlife that isn’t hunted, came together to form MI Birds.
“Creating an environment of collaboration between birding and hunting groups is something we’ve been pushing for years, and this program has really made it happen,” said Audubon Great Lakes’ Director of Conservation Nat Miller.
MI Birds’ founding partners included Ducks Unlimited, the Ruffed Grouse Society, Pheasants Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Detroit Audubon, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Michigan State University Extension, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, American Bird Conservancy and the Detroit Zoo.
These organizations, and the others MI Birds has partnered with since, are dedicated to bird conservation in Michigan.
“We are excited to have all of these conservation groups at the same table to have conversations that show how our values are aligned and how we can work together to achieve something really great,” said Holly Vaughn, Public Outreach and Engagement Unit manager for the DNR Wildlife Division.