Backyard Chirper

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Count Birds in the Great Backyard Bird Count

Image by Maria Corcacas

This weekend, pick up your binoculars and head outside for the Great Backyard Bird Count.

The annual citizen science event, which goes from Feb. 14 to Feb. 17, encourages participants of all ages around the country (and globe) to help create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. It’s impossible for scientists to get detailed evidence of bird populations without the help of beginner and advanced bird watchers alike.

Participants simply have to count birds for as little as 15 minutes at least one day in the four-day period. (Of course, you can count birds as long as you want every day of the event, if you wish.) The information is submitted to gbbc.birdcount.org, which is a collaboration of National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada and powered by eBird.

According to the site, some of the questions the count will help answer include:

  • How will the weather and climate change influence bird populations?
  • Some birds, such as winter finches, appear in large numbers during some years but not others. Where are these species from year to year, and what can we learn from these patterns?
  • 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?

Last year, a whopping 33,464,616 birds were counted in more than 100 countries, which helped scientists learn a lot about different species and populations.

Whether you want to do it with your kids over the weekend or want to enjoy a nice Valentine’s Day with the birds, this event is great for nearly anyone and gives a much needed opportunity to go outdoors with a purpose. And it’s free!

The GBBC has a ton of resources at its new website along with a location finder via eBird that helps you find the best spots for counting nearest you. Visit the site for more details and to register.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.