Friday marks the start of the 18th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. If you wish to help scientists track bird populations and seasonal movements with as little fifteen minutes of your time, consider taking part in this four day event. It is free to participate, great fun for beginner and expert birders alike, and the perfect way to introduce newcomers to birding. If you have not participated before, signing up and submitting your counts is easy. Simply go to the Great Backyard Bird Count link and follow the steps to sign up and participate.
Birds can be counted anywhere, anytime during the duration of the four day event. You may count for as little as fifteen minutes a day, or all day if you like. Despite the name, counts are not limited to your backyard. Birds can be counted in your backyard if you like, but you can also participate by counting at your local park, ESA, or other favourite birding hotspot. In fact, counting somewhere other than your backyard helps scientists track birds not typically found in yards such as waterfowl, eagles, and Snowy Owls.
Lists may be submitted once over the four days, everyday, or multiple lists from the same day recorded at different times. Every count is important as it helps scientists understand bird populations, ranges and seasonal movements. The information collected is then compared to that of other years and helps researchers understand how weather influences bird populations, where irruptive species such as the Snowy Owl appear some years and not others, and how diseases like West Nile effects birds in different areas.
If you are new to birding and reluctant to participate, don’t be. Although accuracy is important, every observation is helpful. Submitting counts of just the birds you are comfortable identifying still helps scientists track the movements of those species. The Great Backyard Bird Count presents the perfect opportunity for introducing newcomers to the hobby of birding. If you are an avid birder, be sure to have someone new with you when you do your count. Whether it be a niece, nephew, grandchild, or friend, compile a list together and help them to identify new species. Not only will you be helping science, you might be gaining a new partner for your next birding adventure.