Make a difference by joining us for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) which takes place every February, usually during President's weekend. It is an annual event that invites people all over the world to contribute to science while enjoying their love for birds. The program began in 1998, twenty-six years ago, as a joint effort by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Since then, Bird Studies Canada, and many international partners have joined this global science initiative. Your participation makes a difference, because it provides valuable data for researchers studying the distribution and abundance of birds worldwide. If you have an interest in birdwatching or want to contribute to scientific research, here's how you can get involved in the Great Backyard Bird Count.
1. Mark your calendars: February 16th-19th for the GBBC which takes place over four days in February, starting on Friday and ending on the following Monday.
2. Create an eBird or Merlin account to participate: create an Ebird or Merlin Account ( Go to Ebird.org or use the mobile app to create an account and log data or download the Merlin Bird ID app and make an account). This step allows you to submit your observations, access identification guides, and learn about the latest updates on the event. Any data entered on Ebird or Merlin between February 16th-19th, will be counted towards the GBBC.
3. Familiarize yourself with common bird species in your area: To make your GBBC experience more fulfilling, it's helpful to have some knowledge about the birds you are likely to encounter. Browse through field guides, online resources, or even take a local birding class to become more familiar with bird identification. Click here to access Audubon's Bird Guide.
4. Choose a location: The beauty of the GBBC is that you can participate from anywhere – your backyard, local park, or even during a nature hike. Select a place that is accessible to you and likely to have a decent bird population for observation.
5. Set aside some time: Carve out at least 15 minutes or more during one or more days of the GBBC to actively count and record bird sightings. You can choose to spend more time if you wish. Remember, every observation counts!
6. Observe and record: Armed with a pair of binoculars, a field guide, and a notepad, start birdwatching. Identify the birds you see and hear, and record details such as species, count, and location. You can also use mobile apps specifically designed for bird identification and data input, making the process more convenient.
7. Submit your observations: log in to your Ebird or Merlin account and enter your observations via the online data entry portal. You will be asked for details about each species and the duration of your count. If you have any questions click here for some answers.
8. Afterwards: take the opportunity to learn more about birds and their conservation. Attend local bird watching events, join birding clubs or organizations, or volunteer for bird-related projects in your area. The GBBC is only the beginning of a lifelong journey of bird appreciation and scientific contribution.
By participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, you become part of a global effort to better understand the trends and health of our bird populations. Your observations contribute to large-scale data sets used by researchers globally. So, grab your binoculars, head outside, and join the birding community in this exciting and important bird watching event!
By David Hewitt