(Photo courtesy of the Nature Conservancy of Canada)(Photo courtesy of the Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Looking for a family activity? Count the birds

The Nature Conservancy of Canada hopes Canadians will take some time this weekend to count the birds.

Between February 14 and February 17, volunteers across Canada and around the world will take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Volunteers are encouraged to count the number of birds they see for at least 15 minutes one day or more this weekend to help collect data on bird populations. Those that take part do not have to be experienced ornithologists; they only need to look out the window, go in their backyard, or take a walk to a nearby park.

After the count, volunteers can enter their checklists on the Great Backyard Bird Count website.

Several studies have indicated bird populations are declining. Last year's State of Canada's Birds report said Canada has lost between 40- and 60 per cent of its shoreline, grassland, and aerial insectivore bird populations. At the same time, the National Audubon Society in the U.S. issued a study that said climate change threatened 389 bird species. Another study showed nearly three-billion birds have disappeared over the past 40 years.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada points out more than 70 per cent of Canadian wetlands have been lost to development in the southern parts of the country, and more than 95 per cent in some urban and agricultural areas.

"Many of Canada's designated Important Bird Areas occur in wetlands," said Andrew Holland with the Conservancy. "They provide critical feeding and nesting habitat for birds that migrate to Canada every spring."

Wetlands are also valuable filters for our drinking water and are an essential asset in fighting climate change by reducing flooding.

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