Our winter blues will soon be lightened as the snow melts and spring blooms. Once again, we can count on hearing the sweet sounds of chirping with every sunrise.
Actually, you may want to start counting now.
The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) provides a free, fun, and educational opportunity for bird watchers of all ages. According to Audubon.org, taking part is quite simple. Between Feb. 15 and Feb. 18, 2019, potential participants are asked to:
- Find a spot where you might see some birds
- Count the birds for 15 minutes or more
- Report your findings online at birdcount.org
The results of the GBBC will provide researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with critical insight on bird populations around the world. They will be able to see where birds are, and how many, during late winter, helping them understand more about the movement and distribution of bird populations.
“The information you give us gets more and more valuable as we track the impacts of habitat loss, climate change, and disease on our birds over time,” the Cornell Lab of Ornithology maintains.
The 2017 GBBC saw more than 180,000 entries from 100 different countries during the four-day period. Nearly 6,500 species were tallied, more than half of all known bird species.
Who should get involved in the Great Backyard Bird Count?
Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count. As EarthSky reports, first-time bird watchers, experts, and everyone in-between is invited to take part in the annual event.
Even if you can’t identify the birds by their Latin name, good notes are accepted. The GBBC researchers want to hear all about your feathered friends’ prominent features.
- What size is the bird?
- What color is it?
- What shape is it?
- Does it have any unusual markings?
If you can answer these questions, you can make a solid entry in the GBBC. You may even want to use a bird identification app to help you out, or take a picture of the birds you spot for “extra credit.”
Why get involved in the Great Backyard Bird Count?
Birds are vital to life around the world. They control insect and rodent populations, spread plant seeds, and fill the air with song.
It goes without saying, we don’t want to lose these beautiful creatures.
Still, many bird species are dwindling, or threatened by unseen circumstances. During the 2014 GBBC, for example, researchers discovered a unique pattern that affected the rare Snowy Owls across the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes areas of the United States. The reported numbers didn’t match what some had expected. Warm weather during the 2013/2014 winter prompted the owls to move away from their regular roosts.
This year, participants may help researchers learn more about other species in danger.
“This count is so fun because anyone can take part,” Chief Scientist Gary Langham told Audubon. “We all learn and watch birds together—whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher. I like to invite new birders to join me and share the experience. Get involved, invite your friends, and see how your favorite spot stacks up.”
Register for the Great Backyard Bird Count here, and watch the video below for more information on this fun and important event!
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.