Join in the Great Backyard Bird Count

     I invite you to spend a little time this weekend enjoying–and helping–the birds in your area by participating in the thirteenth annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 12-15. 

     Organized jointly by the Audubon Society and Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab, the GBBC engages thousands of ordinary people across the U.S. and Canada in observing birds over a winter weekend, and then letting scientists know, by filling out an online form, how many birds of which species they observed and where. 

     The Bird Count is a great help to our feathered friends!  It provides scientists with a real-time snapshot of where birds are across the continent.  Bird populations are dynamic and in constant flux.  So by monitoring their numbers and whereabouts year after year, scientists are amassing a great deal of data that reveal trends over time, that allow researchers to investigate  such far-reaching questions as how birds are responding to a changing climate and to changes in available food sources.  In short, how are the different North American bird species faring? 

     And why February?  “Winter is such a vulnerable time for birds,” explains Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at  the Cornell Lab, “so winter bird distributions are likely to be very sensitive to change.”  And there is only one way, she says, to gather data on private lands where people live, and that is with thousands of people helping.        

     Our help is needed because no single scientist or team of scientists could possibly gather as much information as thousands of people, all over the U.S. and Canada, in urban, suburban, rural, park, and other settings submitting data.  Last year’s GBBC was the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever, with more than 90,000 checklists generated, and more than 11.5 million individual birds of over 600 different species counted.    

     So wherever you live–in an apartment in a big city, in a suburban neighborhood, on a farm, anywhere–you can join in.  You can make your observations from your window, standing in your yard, in a neighborhood park, in the forest, in a field, etc.  As little as 15 minutes spent counting birds will be a useful contribution.  If you wish, you can count birds each day, in different locations, during the four-day count.  And don’t worry if you’re not an expert at identifying birds.  At the GBBC Web site,  you can find photos and sounds of the birds you are likely to see in your geographic area. 

     Visiting the Web site is the next step if you think you may want to participate this weekend.  There you will learn how to document what you see, how to avoid counting individual birds more than once, and how to distinguish between species that look very similar.  You will also find the online form you’ll need to report your observations, as well as ideas for involving kids in the Great Backyard Bird Count.   The site also enables you to track observations of birds in your immediate area over the last 12 years.

     So I hope you’ll join me, and the thousands of others, who will be spending a little time this weekend focusing on–and helping these amazing little beings.–April Moore 


2 Responses to “Join in the Great Backyard Bird Count”

  1. tim Says:

    just found this video link:
    of Eskimos and their observations of the polar suns position – thought you fellow earth huggers may find this interesting -they are not scientist but the true naturalist
    right on with the bird count- my birds are very hungry this winter

  2. April Says:

    Thanks for that link, Tim. Yes, the far northern peoples are really on the front lines of global warming. They are experiencing serious impacts right now, impacts that will reach our more temperate climes before long.

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