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Josiah Lavender / Georgia Department of Natural Resources

A little bird that spends its winters on the Georgia coast is one of the animals most threatened from sea level rise, according to researchers.

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Saltmarsh sparrows are small, streaky brown-striped songbirds with a voice like a squeaky whisper.

They split their time the same way some humans do: They spend their winters on the Georgia coast, then head back up north in the spring. That's where the birds breed, in coastal marshes from Virginia up into Canada.

Courtesy of Laurie Stone

There’s one holiday ritual that goes back a long time, and it doesn’t involve strings of lights, office parties, giving presents or baking cookies.

It's the Christmas Bird Count, a tradition that began in 1900, according to the Audubon Society, when an ornithologist suggested counting birds, instead of what had been the Christmas tradition of hunting them.

Now, in the weeks around Christmas, there are thousands of counts in the U.S., Canada and a handful of other countries. Tens of thousands of people count tens of millions of birds every year.

Ali Guillory / WABE

Now that it's fall, birds are passing through Atlanta on their way south for the winter, but a lot of birds will never make it.

Hundreds of millions of birds die each year in the U.S. when they hit buildings. A project lead by Atlanta Audubon aims to slow that trend here by documenting some of the deaths.

To find birds that died crashing into buildings in Buckhead, Atlanta Audubon Society conservation director Adam Betuel starts looking before dawn. That’s so he can find them before groundskeepers clean them up.

At Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region /

Sometimes what scientists need to protect a threatened species is a chainsaw, some roofing material and a little bit of creativity. On the Georgia coast, the Department of Natural Resources is channeling MacGyver to help out a big, gawky, bald-headed bird.

It’s a bird that hasn’t always nested in Georgia, but now that it does, scientists are working to protect it.

Wood Storks

Wood storks aren’t exactly conventionally beautiful.

Tim Keyes / Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Georgia has a very rare visitor. It’s a tropical bird, called a red-footed booby, and it’s been hanging out on Saint Simons Island.

“It's the first time this species has been documented in Georgia, which is always kind of exciting for those of us interested in birds,” said Tim Keyes, a biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “It's well out of its range. It's probably a bird that was blown north with Hurricane Joaquin.”