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Youth can win prizes for identifying birds

POSTED: December 2, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Georgia’s fourth annual Youth Birding Competition doesn’t take place for five months. But the Department of Natural Resources is urging kids to sign up now, so they can start practicing their birding skills.

That way, they’ll have a better chance of winning when the actual event rolls around on April 25-26. Participants will roam throughout Georgia trying to identify as many bird species as they can, beginning at 5 p.m. April 25.

Twenty-four hours later, they’ll meet for an awards banquet at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield.

The 2008 event, held in early May, involved 29 teams comprising 126 kids, ranging from pre-kindergarteners to high-school seniors. Collectively, they identified about 200 bird species.

Winners in each of four age divisions will receive bird-related prizes such as field guides and binoculars.

"The competition makes it fun for kids and is a hook to draw them in," said Tim Keyes, a DNR wildlife biologist who coordinates the contest. "But I downplay the competitiveness of it. It’s not really about winning or losing. We try to get them interested throughout the year, rather than just preparing for a single event."

This year, Keyes said, they’re encouraging the children to keep a birding journal. "We want to get kids outside, drawing, writing, observing, rather than just identifying a bird and moving on," he said.

Also, children can submit artwork to be considered for the 2009 Youth Birding Competition T-shirt. Linda May, a wildlife interpretive specialist with the DNR, said the art contest drew 196 submissions when it was held this year for the first time.

May said entries must be the child’s original artwork and must depict bird species that are native to Georgia. She said paintings in vivid colors are preferred because they look better on a T-shirt.

Winners will receive gift cards from the Michaels art supply store.

The art contest is another attempt to broaden the competition beyond merely listing birds.

"There’s a lot more to enjoying nature than just identifying things," said May. "A lot of the famous naturalists started out as artists."

The deadline to enter the art contest is March 2. Deadline for the birding competition is March 31.



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