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| Earth on Feb 12, 2013

2013 Great Backyard Bird Count goes global

People from around the world are invited to join this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count to be held on February 15–18, 2013.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a 4-day annual event where citizen scientists of all ages and expertise levels are invited to help scientists track the health of bird populations. This year’s event will be held on February 15–18, 2013. The Great Backyard Bird Count, now in its 16th year, draws a large number of bird watchers from across North America. For the first time ever, people from around the world are invited to participate in the event. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon and Bird Studies Canada.

Participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count is simple. First, pick a location where you will be able to observe birds during the February 15–18 event. Locations can range anywhere from your backyard to a nearby park or wilderness area. Then, visit that area during the event and count the number and types of birds you see over at least a 15 minute period. Lastly, submit your data to the Great Backyard Bird Count. While you need to count birds at one location for at least 15 minutes, you are welcome to visit multiple locations and perform counts for longer than 15 minutes.

Click here to download data entry forms and get bird identification tips.

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Everyone who participates in the Great Backyard Bird Count is eligible to receive prizes such as books about birds and bird feeders. There is even a photography contest for those who wish to submit pictures of birds that they encounter during the event.

A photograph of an Evening Grosbeak taken during the 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count. Image Credit: Norm Dougan, British Columbia.

The data collected during the Great Backyard Bird Count are used by scientists to help them understand what is happening to bird populations. For example, the data can be used to determine what areas have high levels of biodiversity and to evaluate how birds are responding to diseases and changes in their habitat and climate.

A record number of bird count checklists were submitted during the 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count. During the 2012 event, over 17 million individual birds were counted and 623 bird species were identified.

The most common birds reported on 2012 checklists were Northern Cardinals and Mourning Doves. High numbers of Snowy Owls were observed in some areas of the United States, and scientists think that the owls were foraging farther south than their typical range in search of food. Several bird species included Mallards, American Coots and Belted Kingfishers were observed well north of their usual range likely because of the mild winter. Scientists are not exactly sure why, but Blue Jay sightings were lower than normal in a few areas of North America including portions of New England, the Great Lakes region and across much of the Midwest United States. Other areas of North America had either stable numbers or higher than normal numbers of Blue Jay sightings. Scientists think that the fluctuations in Blue Jay sightings could possibly be tied to changes in their food source.

A photography of a Blue Jay taken during the 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count. Image Credit: Linda Pizer, Arkansas.

John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, commented on the Great Backyard Bird Count in a press release. He said:

We’re eager to see how many of the world’s 10,240 bird species will be reported during the count this year. We’re looking forward to this historic snapshot of birds that that will be reported from around the world. We need as many people as possible to help build the wealth of data that scientists need to track the health of bird populations through time.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is sponsored in part by Wild Birds Unlimited.

Bottom line: The Great Backyard Bird Count is a 4-day annual event where citizen scientists of all ages and expertise levels are invited to help scientists track the health of bird populations. This year’s event will be held on February 15–18, 2013. The Great Backyard Bird Count, now in its 16th year, draws a large number of bird watchers from across North America. For the first time ever, people from around the world are invited to participate in the event. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon and Bird Studies Canada.

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