The Great Backyard Bird Count

American Goldfinches at Heated Birdbath
American Goldfinches at Heated Birdbath

Today I’m counting birds. Well, every day I count birds at some point as part of my bird watching, but today is right in the middle of the Great Backyard Bird Count:

“Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time. Now, more than 100,000 people of all ages and walks of life worldwide join the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.”

It’s easy to participate. If you already use eBird, another related Cornell Lab project, you can just submit your bird counts through your existing eBird account as usual and it’ll be automatically included in the GBBC. If not, no problem. Just go to the Great Backyard Bird Count website and register for the count.

Cornell explains, “Simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, February 12-15, 2016. You can count from any location, anywhere in the world, for as long as you wish!”

Just look outside your window and count the birds you see. Or go to a local park or wildlife refuge to do your count. Wherever you like to watch wild birds anywhere in the world is fine. You can do one count or do more than one. Just count the number of each bird species you see.

You can enter the count on the website or through the eBird app if you’re using that on your smart phone. Either way, they will ask you to identify where you were geographically when you saw the birds, how long you spent birding, how much effort you put into the process, whether you were traveling (for example, taking a walk), watching from a stationary point (like your window) or if it is just an incidental sighting. They’ll want to know how long you spent watching and how many of each species you saw during that time. The website has a good page with FAQs if you have questions, but it really isn’t hard to use. It’s really just filling in a quick form.

The data that everyday people submit is used by Cornell’s scientists to look at bird populations, their movements and changes in the various species’ geographical ranges. It helps them spot which birds seem to be doing okay and which birds might be in trouble. It’s very cool to be able to help out with this project. And once you get started counting birds, it becomes a bit addictive. You too may find yourself spending some time every day counting birds!


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