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March Migration Madness celebrates Indiana’s birds

March Migration Madness

A competition featuring the “Tweet 16” and the “Feathered Four” will take place during this spring’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Indiana. Rather than hoopsters, the competitors will be pelicans, cranes, and eagles in a 16-bird bracket. “March Migration Madness” will feature an array of birds as they face off in voting to determine winners and who will move on to the “Chirpionship.” March is the start of spring migration for millions of birds that are making their way into Indiana, some on their way to locations as far north as 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 Indiana Audubon Society. “We hope people take the opportunity to get to know their local birds this spring and take steps to protect them through programs such as Indiana Audubon’s Adopt-A-Shrike.”

You don’t have to be a member of Indiana Audubon to play. Learn more about the competition at Indiana Audubon’s site

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament takes place entirely in Indiana. It’s the first time a single state has hosted the tournament. March Migration Madness will take place during the same timeframe, from March 19 through April 5. The 16 birds chosen, including Bald Eagle, Eastern Phoebe, Sandhill Crane, and Loggerhead Shrike, were selected for their importance to Indiana and their presence in the state in March. Among the intriguing first round matchups are Sandhill Crane versus Killdeer and Winter Wren versus Bald Eagle, a David versus Goliath battle 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 conceived of the bird-driven tournament. “This seemed like a great way to commemorate a once-in-a-lifetime event while galvanizing action toward conservation.”

A study released in 2019 by Cornell Lab of Ornithology found that the number of birds across North America had declined by as much as 30 percent since 1970. Locally that impact is seen with endangered species like the Loggerhead Shrike, whose numbers have dipped to around seven pairs in the Hoosier State from 100 pairs in the late 1980s. Indiana Audubon Society’s Adopt-A-Shrike program seeks to restore the shrike population by planting shrubs and trees on overgrazed pastures. The program enables individuals to “adopt” a shrike that’s been banded and follow its movements year to year. 

Participants may submit their brackets by Thursday, March 18, via email to Voting will take place daily through April 5 at The person with the winning set of brackets will receive a virtual family pass to this May’s Indiana Dunes Birding Festival, a fine art print commemorating the festival, and a DVD copy of “Monty and Rose,” the story of Chicago’s Piping Plovers. 

Thanks to Indiana Audubon for providing this news. 

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