The annual Great Backyard Bird Count, now in its 21st year, is set to take place February 16 to 19, 2018. During this popular citizen science event, people from all over the world head outdoors to count birds and the data are used by scientists to track the health of bird populations.
Gary Langham, Chief Scientist at the National Audubon Society, commented on the Great Backyard Bird Count on Audubon’s website. He said:
This count is so fun because anyone can take part—we all learn and watch birds together—whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher. I like to invite new birders to join me and share the experience. Get involved, invite your friends, and see how your favorite spot stacks up.
The 2017 count was a huge success. Over 200,000 people participated from around the world, and they submitted a record number of checklists. A total of 6,259 bird species were spotted during the event, which was the highest number ever recorded over the 20-year history of the count. This number represents more than half of all known bird species on Earth!
Participating in the 2018 Great Backyard Bird Count involves three easy steps.
First, register with your name on the event’s website at the link here. Registration is free. This website has a ton of useful information about birds and the upcoming bird count.
Second, spend some time counting birds on the weekend of the event at the location of your choice, such as your backyard or a local park. The minimum amount of time required is 15 minutes, but you can count for longer if you wish. During your count, simply record the start and end time, location, and number and types of birds that you see. You can perform counts in multiple locations too. Just be sure to submit separate checklists for each location.
Not to worry if you can’t identify the birds you see at first. Just take good notes about their prominent features, for example, size, shape, color, and unusual markings, or you can try to snap a close-up picture. Then, you can use a bird guide to look them up later. All About Birds and What Bird are two good online bird identification guides that are free and easy to use. Additionally, the free Merlin Bird ID App can be downloaded to your smartphone and used offline. Merlin will ask you five simple questions about the bird you are trying to identify and suggest matches for you—you can even upload a picture to Merlin and let the app try to identify it.
The third and last step involves uploading your data to the event’s website. This step usually only takes a few minutes to complete. While you’re visiting the website, check out the live map that displays dots in the various locations where people have uploaded a checklist. It’s fun to watch the data pour in from all over the world.
As an added bonus, there is a photo contest for those who want to submit pictures of the birds that they see during the event. You can even submit photos of yourself watching the birds. Hence, don’t forget your binoculars. If you do shoot some good photos, please share them with EarthSky too. We love birding photos!
Use the hashtag #GBBC to follow Great Backyard Bird Count conversations on Twitter and Facebook.
The first annual Great Backyard Bird Count was held in 1998, and the event has continued to grow year after year. Hopefully, 2018 will be another record breaker.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a collaborative project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada.
Bottom line: The annual Great Backyard Bird Count runs from February 16 to 19, 2018. This popular citizen science project helps scientists keep track of the health of bird populations. Participating is free and easy, so why not give it a try?
Deanna Conners is an Environmental Scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Toxicology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies. Her interest in toxicology stems from having grown up near the Love Canal Superfund Site in New York. Her current work is to provide high-quality scientific information to the public and decision-makers and to help build cross-disciplinary partnerships that help solve environmental problems. She writes about Earth science and nature conservation for EarthSky.