March 17, 2014

Red-Tailed Hawk spectacular, but least documented in Backyard Bird Count

By R. Scott Belzer
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The annual Great Backyard Bird Count took place Valentine’s Day weekend last month, inspiring bird enthusiasts and nature lovers from Laurel County to take part in the national event.

Hobbyist, amateur, professional, and aspiring bird watchers took part in the event by counting birds in various locations for at least 15 minutes. Lists citing number and species were made for each day, location or time. A national, bird-oriented photography contest also accompanied the event.

In Laurel County, 18 participants counted 45 different species in backyards, parks, and trails. Over 150 American Goldfinches were counted, making the bird the most seen in the county. Approximately 70 European Starlings were spotted in Laurel County, making it a somewhat distant runner-up.

The county’s most unusual and least sighted birds included several species of hawk, including the American Kestrel, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-Shouldered Hawk, and Red-Tailed Hawk, which is commonly known as a “chicken hawk” due to its size.

In Kentucky, more than 1,000 participants counted approximately 128 different species.  Last year’s most counted bird – the Common Grackle – put up an impressive count of 1,500, but was overshadowed by a migration of roughly 5,000 Sandhill Cranes, followed by 3,000 documented European Starlings.

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count is a by-product of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society. For information on how to participate in next year’s Great Backyard Bird Count, visit The website also has games, coloring pages, and puzzles available for educators. Teachers can also find a PowerPoint slideshow and video to help them start counting in their classrooms.