From the excited hum in the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center banquet hall to children flocking to a presentation on native turtles, the Georgia Youth Birding Competition returned to full form last weekend.
After three years of COVID-forced changes, the popular Department of Natural Resources birdathon held its traditional contest-ending banquet and awards ceremony for all teams Saturday. More than 110 children and teens took part, with parents and team leaders joining them at the center near Mansfield.
The turnout had competition coordinator and founder Tim Keyes smiling. “It’s great to see everyone back at the banquet,” said Keyes, a DNR wildlife biologist.
He also noted this was the first competition for almost a third of the 29 teams, two of which had moved from submitting T-shirt art contest entries to also joining the birding event. “Awesome!” Keyes said.
The Youth Birding Competition, now in its 17th year, ran April 14 through Saturday. During that nine-day span, kindergarteners through high-schoolers picked a 24-hour stretch and competed by age group to find the most bird species. Teams from Adairsville to Zebulon sported names such as Bird Dawgs, The Pike County Craniacs and Birding with Baby Yoda.
The longer timeframe for birding – organizers changed from a single 24-hour period during the pandemic – has broadened participation. But this year some teams had also “upped their game,” Keyes said.
Amazing Anhingas, a high school team from Glynn and DeKalb counties, won the championship for the second straight year, but with 144 species compared to 128 last year. Eleven teams had 70 or more.
The middle school team Pi-billed Grebes raised $1,200 for wildlife conservation, the most of any team. The total for the competition, in which fundraising is a voluntary part, topped $2,200.
Amy Alderman received the Mentor Award, spending 17 hours mentoring the St. Andrews Songbirds, a first-year team from Macon in the elementary school division.
The event also included a T-shirt art contest that drew 108 entries. Birding participants received T-shirts with a golden eagle drawn by Kevin Lin, a high school junior and student at SKA Academy of Art and Design in Duluth. As the art contest grand-prize winner, Lin received a $100 Amazon gift card.
While DNR named most T-shirt division winners earlier this month, art contest coordinator Linda May announced the top entry from a youth who took part in the birding competition Saturday. For the third year in a row, the honor went to Abigail Moeller, this time for her green heron drawing. The 11th-grade homeschool student from Adairsville birded with the Moeller Myrtle Warblers.
This year’s winning art entries are posted at https://bit.ly/3KNyCTy.
The awards banquet featured a live turtles program led by Linda May, T-shirt art contest coordinator and outreach leader for DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section, and a video from competition alumnus Angus Pritchard of DeKalb County.
Pritchard is a college graduate on a year-long Thomas J. Watson Fellowship exploring bird conservation and birding culture internationally. From Argentina’s Las Yungas Biosphere Reserve, he sent remarks and tips on the competition, plus encouragement for youth pursuing an interest in birds and conservation.
“You have an interest that is super unique, and that is incredibly important,” Pritchard said. “It will probably pay off in ways that you can’t expect right now.”
The 2024 banquet and awards ceremony is scheduled for April 20. Registration opens online this winter.
The Youth Birding Competition is aimed at inspiring an awareness and appreciation of Georgia’s birds and the outdoors. The birding event and T-shirt Art Contest are sponsored by DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section, The Environmental Resources Network Inc. or TERN – friends group of the Wildlife Conservation Section – and others including Georgia Ornithological Society and Georgia Audubon. Visit georgiawildlife.com/YBC for more details.
The Wildlife Conservation Section conserves Georgia wildlife not legally fished for or hunted, as well as rare plants and natural habitats. The agency depends primarily on fundraisers, grants and contributions. Learn more at georgiawildlife.com/licenseplates and georgiawildlife.com/donations.
BIRDING COMPETITION RESULTS
High School Division
- Amazing Anhingas, Glynn/DeKalb counties (144 species), and overall competition winner
- Bufford Bluebirds, Rome (78 species)
- The Wide-eyed Vireos, Sandy Springs (77 species)
Middle School Division
- Awesome Anhingas, Cobb County (108 species)
- Bold Eagles, Atlanta (98 species)
- Blue Jays, Good Hope (93 species)
Elementary School Division
- The Eagle Eyes, Glynn County (70 species)
- Rome Redstarts, Rome (69 species)
- Golden Eagles, Troup County (52 species)
Primary School Division
- The Bird Squad, Harris County (29 species)
Fundraising (division leaders)
- Middle: The Pi-billed Grebes, Atlanta: division and overall top fundraiser, raising $1,200
- Elementary: Bird Dawgs, Madison – $451
- High: Bufford Bluebirds, Rome – $100
- Primary: The Bird Squad, Harris County – $51
Fundraising for conservation is a voluntary part of the event.
Top first-year teams
- Primary: The Bird Squad, Harris County (29 species)
- Elementary: The Pike County Craniacs, Zebulon (50 species)
- Middle: Westminster Green, Atlanta (62 species)
- High: Early Birds – SKA, Duluth (42 species)
Mentor Award: Amy Alderman, mentoring the St. Andrews Songbirds of Macon (Elementary School Division)
2023 T-shirt Art Contest details and results are at georgiawildlife.com/YBCTshirtArtContest.