Americas
9 Feb 2018

Join the bird count extravaganza of the year – wherever you are!

Great Backyard Bird Count will take place February 16 to 19 – but you don’t need a backyard to take part. Citizens record the birds they see in parks, nature centres, on hiking trails, school grounds, balconies, and beaches. Ordinary people the world over will be providing scientists with crucial information while enjoying their local wildlife. Be one of them!

Over half the world's known bird species were spotted last year, including the Common Redpoll © Missy Mandel
Over half the world's known bird species were recorded last year, including the Common Redpoll © Missy Mandel
By Bird Studies Canada & Audubon

Bird science isn’t just for scientists any more. Want to do your bit for bird conservation?  Then this year, join a worldwide force of bird-loving citizens that will record more data at once than any team of scientists could on their own. And it couldn’t be easier. To participate, all you need to do is count the birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter your checklists at birdcount.org. This global event provides an opportunity for bird enthusiasts to contribute important bird population data that help scientists see changes over the past 21 years.

"The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a great way to introduce people to participation in community science," says Dr. Gary Langham, vice president and chief scientist for the National Audubon Society. "No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds." 

The data can help us to understand how climate change is affecting birds

The GBBC wasn’t always this huge. In 1998, during the first event, bird watchers submitted about 13,500 checklists from the United States and Canada. But after that, it really took off. Fast-forward to the most recent event in 2017. Over the four days of the count, an estimated 240,418 bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted 181,606 bird checklists reporting 6,259 species–more than half the known bird species in the world. 

 

Add extra excitement to your birdwatch by entering the GBBC photo contest with pictures like this Blue Jay © Mark J Eden

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Jon McCracken, Bird Studies Canada's National Program Director, gives his advice for those in wintry climes: "A lot depends on the weather, but a little snow and cold shouldn’t get in your way. Remember that you don't have to venture far afield at all. You truly can count birds right in your own backyard or, better yet, take a pleasant winter stroll around your neighborhood."

Last year, birders recorded more than half the known bird species in the world

"The 2018 GBBC again promises to provide an important snapshot of bird occurrence in February," says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program. "Some stories to watch in North America are mountain birds moving into lowland valleys and east to the Great Plains, crossbills on the move across much of the continent, and many eastern birds responding to extremes as the winter temperatures have oscillated between unseasonably warm and exceptionally cold."

 

Snowy Owls are also being reported in higher numbers than usual in North America this winter © Kim Mann
 

Modern technology is making it and easier for birders to record the observatons they make, in a way that can actively help the species they love. The eBird app collects bird observations globally every day of the year from birders in the field, and is the online platform used by the GBBC.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is February's call to action for Year of the Bird

The 21st GBBC is all the more important because it is the February call-to-action for the Year of the Bird, a 12-month celebration of birds in which citizens pledge to help birds by taking a simple action each month. The Year of the Bird is led by National Geographic, the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and more than 100 participating organizations. Learn more about Year of the Bird at www.birdyourworld.org.

To learn more about what scientists discovered the past 21 years and how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit birdcount.org. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by founding sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.