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Herbert says May is for the birds

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is home to more than 400 observed species of birds and 22 "important bird areas," with the Great Salt Lake serving as a critical stopover for millions of birds taking a rest from long journeys.

As such, the state of Utah is officially recognizing May 2018 as the Month of the Bird, in a special declaration issued Monday by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

“May is a great month for residents and visitors to celebrate the important and inspirational role of birds that live in and migrate through our state. I want to thank National Audubon Society for their efforts in protecting birds and the places they need in Utah and beyond,” Herbert said.

A number of events are held each May to celebrate Utah's bird species, including this year's 20th annual Great Salt Lake Bird Festival planned for May 17-21 in Davis County.

"The wonders of Great Salt Lake hold something for everyone. Seeing Killdeer around the shores of the lake takes me back to my childhood growing up on a farm in Delta — it was always my favorite bird,” said Michael Styler, executive director for Utah’s Department of Natural Resources.

The Tracy Aviary is hosting its Urban Bird Festival May 12-13, and May 9-11 is the 12th Biennial Great Salt Lake Issues Forum at the University of Utah Officers Club, hosted by Friends of the Great Salt Lake.

"Year of the Bird is an easy way people can take small everyday actions to help birds along their journeys," said David Yarnold, president and CEO for the National Audubon Society.

In addition to Utah's role in the celebration of birds, people around the world are observing 2018 as the Year of the Bird. This year is the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act — among the oldest wildlife protection laws in the country.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the Nature Conservancy in Utah will celebrateWorld Migratory Bird Day at the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve in Moab on May 12.

The first International Bird Day Tour is May 11-12 in the Grouse Creek area in western Box Elder County at the Box C Ranch. The event includes an opportunity for camping overnight or a limited number of rooms.

Throughout May and June, residents throughout the West are being encouraged to participate in the documentation of bird observations for the first National Audubon Society's Western Rivers Bird Count.

The effort calls on "community scientists" to conduct bird counts at identified priority locations along rivers in the West, particularly in the Colorado River Basin.

"The Western Rivers Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in community science and to focus existing Big Day counts to include rivers," said Karyn Stockdale, Audubon’s Western Water senior director. “With years of drought in the intermountain West, it’s important for us to better understand how birds are responding to these realities in the early summer.”

Utah has at least nine organized birding organizations, and each year, thousands of people participate in birding-related activities, including conservation efforts designed to boost habitat health.

This Saturday is Global Big Day, the largest single birding event in the world.

Lynn de Freitas, executive director of Friends of the Great Salt Lake, praised the state for the designation.

"Celebrating the bird for the month of May is the least we can do," said de Freitas, an active birder. "One of the things I think is universal about birding in general is that they are the most available wildlife for anyone to see. You can be in an urban setting or a rural setting, and you are going to see a bird. … The bottom line is we need to do all we can to raise awareness of avian wildlife."