Great Backyard Bird Count is Coming

>> Monday, November 17, 2008

Feb 13-16, 2009
Mark your calendars.
Read more about it in their news release.

It’s a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. This free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation. Participants count birds and report their sightings online at

My wife and I have participated in this annual event for the past several years and I want to encourage others to do the same. Here in central Utah we see Coopers Hawk, Black-capped chickadee, Dark-eyed junco, Northern flicker, purple finches, goldfinch, house finch, Cedar waxwing, Mourning dove, Rock dove, Red-winged black bird, European starling. I didn’t realize what a long list it was until we started keeping track.

Ever wonder how scientists know what the migratory range is for a specific bird? Or how many birds of a particular species there is? Well, since no single scientist or team of scientists could hope to keep track of the complicated patterns of movement of so many species over an entire continent, the information taken from GBBC participants provides valuable information to scientists as they try to learn how birds are affected by environmental changes.

The information you send in can provide the first sign that individual species may be increasing or declining from year to year. It shows how a species’ range expands or shrinks over time. A big change, noted consistently over a period of years, is an indication that something is happening in the environment that is affecting the birds and that should be followed up on. GBBC information also allows us to look at what kinds of birds inhabit different areas, such as cities versus suburban.

This is very valuable information and can only be collected by dedicated scientists and concerned individuals. If you want to do something to help birds survive this is one of the best ways to participate.

I especially encourage those of you with good photography skills to document any birds you see and enter your photos in their photo contest.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

How to participate
1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes during February 13–16, 2009.
Count birds at as many places and on as many days as you like—just keep a separate list of counts for each day and/or location.

2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time, and write it down.
You can get regional bird checklists here.

3. Enter your results through GBBC web page.

They have a great photo gallery of birds from all over the U.S. along with names.

The reasoning behind why this is one in February is that it gives a snapshot of how birds are surviving the winter and where they are located just before spring migrations begin in March. Scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and elsewhere can combine this information with data from surveys conducted at different times of the year.

There are answers to all of your questions from the main page, just click on the FAQs link.

Also, check out eBird, a free, real-time, online checklist program that accepts bird counts at any time throughout the year. You can use eBird to store detailed lists of your own sightings, a list of your favorite birding spots, and checkout where birds are seen throughout the U.S.

A great online source for identifying birds is

Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 (outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473), or Audubon at or (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.

Take the Healthy Yard Pledge
While you’re getting ready to feed and count birds this winter, make sure you’re maintaining healthy bird habitat in your yard by taking the Audubon Healthy Yard Pledge.

The Healthy Yard Pledge is part of Audubon At Home, which focuses on managing backyards and other natural areas to help birds and other wildlife. Visit the website to learn about 16 key elements that make up a healthy backyard habitat—how many can be found in your yard?

This is a great opportunity to help further understand the nature of birds and a wonderful way to introduce more people in your area to bird watching.


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