March Migration Madness celebrates Indiana’s birds

There will be a competition for the Tweet 16 and the Feathered Four during the men’s NCAA basketball tournament this spring in Indiana. Instead of hoopsters, the competitors will be pelicans, cranes and eagles in a 16-bird bracket. March Migration Madness will feature a number of birds competing against each other to determine the winners and who will go on to chirp. March marks the start of spring migration for millions of birds making their way into Indiana, some on their way to locations as far as the north of the Arctic Circle.

“March Migration Madness is a fun way to celebrate Indiana’s basketball history while educating the public about birds,” said Brad Bumgardner, executive director of the Indiana Audubon Society. “We hope people will take the opportunity to learn about their native birds this spring and take steps to protect them through programs like Indiana Audubon’s Adopt-A-Shrike.”

You don’t have to be an Indiana Audubon member to play. Learn more about the competition on the Indiana Audubon website.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament will take place entirely in Indiana. It is the first time that a single state has hosted the tournament. March Migration Madness will take place from March 19th to April 5th during the same period. The 16 birds selected, including Bald Eagle, Eastern Phoebe, Sandhill Crane, and Loggerhead Shrike, were picked for their importance to Indiana and their presence in the state in March. Fascinating first round matchups include Sandhill Crane versus Killdeer and Winter Wren versus Bald Eagle, a David-Goliath fight, if there ever was one.

“March is a great time of year for basketball and birds,” said Bob Dolgan, a Chicago-based writer and filmmaker who devised the bird-driven tournament. “This seemed like a great way to remember a once-in-a-lifetime event while taking action to protect it.”

A 2019 study published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology found that the number of birds in North America has decreased by as much as 30 percent since 1970. On-site, this impact is seen in endangered species such as the loggerhead carp, the numbers of which have dropped to about seven pairs in the Hoosier State from 100 pairs in the late 1980s. The Indiana Audubon Society’s Adopt-A-Shrike program aims to restore the shrike population by planting shrubs and trees in overgrazed pastures. The program enables individuals to “adopt” a banded shrike and track its movements year after year.

Participants can email their brackets to Thursday, March 18th [email protected]. The vote will take place daily until April 5th at The person in the winning brackets will receive a virtual family pass for the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival in May, an art print commemorating the festival, and a DVD copy of Monty and Rose, the story of Chicago’s Piping Plovers.

Thank you Indiana Audubon for providing this news.

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