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.
This year, the count will take place from Feb. 15 through Feb. 18.
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.
Participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report their counts, they fill out an online checklist at the Great Backyard Bird Count Web site, www.birdsource.org/gbbc/
How to participate
1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes during February 15-18, 2008. 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 on the Web site.
3. Enter your results through our Web page.
Taking part in the GBBC is easy. You don't even have to know a lot about birds and you can find helpful identification tips on the Web site at www.birdcount.org.
Participants watch birds in their yards, city parks, nature centers, or wherever they like. Participants can explore maps and charts showing what others are reporting in their area or across the continent. Visitors to the Web site can also see winning photos from the 2007 photo contest and get inspired to send in their own digital images during the 2008 GBBC. Every photo submitted is considered for the contest.
As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or anywhere in the United States and Canada.
They can also see how this year's numbers compare with those from previous years. Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see. A selection of images is posted in the online photo gallery.
In 2007, participants reported a record-breaking 11 million birds of 616 species. They submitted more than 80,000 checklists, an all-time record for the 10 years of the count.
Why count birds?
Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.
Make sure the birds from your community are well-represented in the count. It doesn't matter whether you report the five species coming to your backyard feeder or the 75 species you see during a day's outing to a wildlife refuge.
Your counts can help us 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?
Scientists use the counts, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to give an immense picture of our winter birds.
Each year that these data are collected makes them more meaningful and allows scientists to investigate far-reaching questions.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.