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Birding field trip raises awareness of birds' importance

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: May 10 2014 05:33:20 PM MDT
Updated On: May 10 2014 05:46:28 PM MDT
LIVINGSTON, Mont. -

May 10th marks International Migratory Bird Day. To celebrate, the Yellowstone Ranger District hosted a birding field trip, where they led groups around bird watching "hot spots" throughout Park County.

Michelle Koehnle is a Livingston resident, and an outdoor enthusiast.

"I love to be outside," she explained.

She is one of dozens of people who celebrated International Migratory Bird Day with the Yellowstone Ranger District. "To see birds and be with other experts and learn a lot about their habitat and their behavior," she said.

Participants traveled to different sites throughout the Paradise and Shields Valleys near Livingston, using their binoculars and guide books to spot different species. While NBC Montana with them, we saw a Turkey Vulture, a Peregrine Falcon, blue birds, and robins, just to name a few. The Yellowstone Ranger District said on this field trip in the past, they have seen more than 85 species in one day.

"I loved seeing the soaring Red Hawk that was pretty cool to see them," Koehnle said.

"The Magpie!" said participant Karen Olson, who was visiting from Michigan. "I've never seen the Magpie before. That's really pretty."

The theme of this year's Bird Day is "Why birds matter, the benefits of birds to humans and nature."

"It's important for people to know about the birds in our area because they do serve a huge purpose in our lives," explained Rachel Feigley, a wildlife biologist for the Gallation National Forest. She explained birding is about more than just enjoying the outdoors.

"We historically have used the birds as an inspiration for the arts," she said, "we've used birds for food, we've used birds just for our enjoyment, and they play a huge role in pollination."

Feigley said it is also an opportunity to visit different areas of Montana's backyard, not only to take advantage of public lands, but to raise awareness about protecting the lands where these birds live.

"To me, it's important to provide that connection with the American public, who is the people we serve and the people that own this public land," Feigley said. "So, for me, to give a little snapshot of what natural resources are in their backyard and get them excited about birds and educate people about birds and the need for their habitats is one of my critical roles."

And the participants agreed. "I think it's good for people to be aware of what's going on in their environment and birds are a part of that," Olson said.

Here are some more facts on how the Forest Service says birds benefit humans and wildlife:

They help with insect control. A Barn Swallow can eat up to 60 insects per hour.

They help with pollination. Hummingbirds can visit more than 1,000 flowers in a day.

Birds also provide small mammal control. A Red Tailed Hawk's diet is 85 percent rodents.

They disperse seeds. The American Robin eat seeds and deposits them far from their original plant.

For more information about birding, visit mtaudobon.org/