Do you live in the US or Canada? Are you a budding birdwatcher or a fully-fledged birding expert? Perhaps you’re just someone who likes to get outdoors and take stock of the wildlife living right on your doorstep? You may even be someone who just fancies doing something a little different this weekend…
The Great Backyard Bird Count is for you! Taking place in the United States and Canada from Friday, February 18 through Monday, February 21, the Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event aimed at bird watchers of all ages.
Why count birds?
Scientists use the counts, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to help them build up a comprehensive picture of winter birds in the US and Canada. The data collected helps scientists and experts to answer many questions:
- How will this winter’s snow and cold temperatures influence bird populations?
- Where are winter finches and other “irruptive” species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?
- How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
- How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
- What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
- Are any birds undergoing worrisome declines that point to the need for conservation attention?
How do I get involved?
Anyone can help by tallying birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count. At www.birdcount.org, you can enter the highest number of each species seen at any one time and watch as the tallies grow across the continent.
Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see. A selection of images are posted on the online photo gallery.
For more information, including bird-ID tips, instructions and past results, visit the Great Backyard Bird Count website. The count also includes a photo contest and a prize draw for participants who enter their bird checklists online.
What might I see?
More than 600 bird species live in the US and Canada. Last year’s participants reported more than 1.8 million American robins, as well as rarities such as the first red-billed tropicbird in the count’s 13-year history.
Northern birds, often called “irruptives,” tend to show wild swings in their abundance from year to year. Species like red and white-winged crossbills, common and hoary redpolls, pine siskin, and evening and pine grosbeak may be common one year and entirely absent the next.
Last year, Texas, with its size, habitat diversity, and dedicated birders, was the species diversity hotspot, with 347 species counted.
The 2010 Great Backyard Bird Count had a record number of participants, with bird watchers across the continent and Hawaii submitting more then 97,200 checklists.
Are you taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count in the US or Canada? Let us know what you see!
Help spread the word by asking your friends and family to participate! Easy instructions can be found at www.birdcount.org.
Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author