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DNR’s Tim Keyes congratulates the Bufford Bluebirds Youth Birding Competition team.

SOCIAL CIRCLE – Budding birders can explore the outdoors, see birds and other wildlife, compete for fun and enjoy free food: What’s not to like about Georgia’s Youth Birding Competition?

The 15th annual event is April 24-25, and youths from kindergarten to high school seniors are invited to join the adventure. No birding experience is necessary, only a desire to learn and get outdoors.

Coordinator Tim Keyes, a Georgia Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist who started the competition in 2005, said he is excited about the opportunity to introduce birds to a new group of young people and encourage experienced birders as they hone their skills.

“From 7-year-olds who can identify 20 bird species to teens who can identify 160, this program offers a fun opportunity to spend a day outdoors finding birds as part of a friendly competition, complete with T-shirts, a banquet and prizes,” said Keyes, who works with DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section.

“In a world increasingly dominated by screens and technology, the Youth Birding Competition is one of the leaders in recruiting kids outside into the natural world learning about birds.”

March 31 is the deadline to register for the 24-hour statewide birdathon. Register and learn more at www.georgiawildlife.com/YBC. Mentors are available for birding novices, but interested birders are encouraged to sign up soon.

Teams of from two to five youths sign up and compete in one of four age divisions. (There is a prize category for first-year teams.) Participants can volunteer to raise money for conservation.

The contest starts at 5 p.m. April 24, and ends at 5 p.m. April 25. Groups may use as much or as little of that time to count as many birds as possible anywhere in Georgia.

But teams must turn in their checklists at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield by 5 p.m. Saturday. The birders are then treated to an animal show and a prize-packed awards banquet.

The competition also includes a T-shirt Art Contest. Deadline to enter the T-shirt contest is March 6. Participation in the birding event is encouraged but not required to enter.

There is no charge for either contest, aside from the optional cost of overnight lodging at Charlie Elliott.

The Youth Birding Competition and T-shirt Art Contest are sponsored by the DNR Wildlife Conservation Section, The Environmental Resources Network Inc. – friends group of the agency – and others, including the Georgia Ornithological Society and the Atlanta and Albany Audubon societies.

The competition has built an impressive record of helping develop an interest in birds and wildlife among young people. Some competitors have gone on to study ecology and natural resources management in college. Other former birding novices are now veterans and mentoring younger birders. Over the past 14 years, teams also have raised more than $27,000 for conservation.

For details about the competition, including registering online, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/YBC. Keyes can be reached at (912) 222-0424 or tim.keyes@dnr.ga.gov. Information about the Charlie Elliott Conference Center, including lodging, is available by calling Amanda George at (770) 784-3122.

For more on the T-shirt Art Contest, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/YBCTshirtArtContest or contact art contest coordinator Linda May at (706) 319-0211 or linda.may@dnr.ga.gov.

2020 YOUTH BIRDING COMPETITIONWhat: Free bird-a-thon and fundraiser for youths from kindergarten through high school.

When: April 24-25. Register by March 31.

Where: Teams can bird anywhere in the state, but must arrive at the finish line at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield by 5 p.m. April 25.

T-shirt Art Contest: Enter by March 6. Details at www.georgiawildlife.org/YBCTshirtArtContest or contact art contest coordinator Linda May at (706) 319-0211 or linda.may@dnr.ga.gov.

Registration: Online at www.georgiawildlife.com/YBC. For details on lodging at Charlie Elliott Conference Center, contact Amanda George, (770) 784-3122, amanda.george@dnr.ga.gov.

Birding competition contact: Tim Keyes, (912) 222-0424 or tim.keyes@dnr.ga.gov

Other details, including participation booklet and forms: www.georgiawildlife.com/YBC.

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