An At-Home Conservation Project For The World
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a project of Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The National Audubon Society, in which everyday people, wherever on earth they are, count the numbers and species of birds they observe. This annual event takes place each February over a four day period. The 2015 Great Backyard Bird Count is set for February 13-16. The information collected in the count allows researchers to see where the birds are and how dense or sparse those populations are. Because one year’s information is only part of the story, the data are compiled and compared with past years to study a broad array of specific questions relating to climate, disease, bird behavior, diversity of species within particular areas, migration patterns and more. According to The Great Backyard Bird Count’s website, “In 2014, Great Backyard Bird Count participants in 135 countries counted nearly 4,300 species of birds on more than 144,000 checklists!”
Participation Is Simple
This is a very participant-friendly project. You simply count the birds you see in your location over a minimum of fifteen minutes, create an account in the Great Backyard Bird Count system, and load your checklist. Over the four day period, you may count as little as once for fifteen minutes, or several times either in a single location or multiple locations if you wish. You don’t need to stay home to count the birds “in your back yard”. The most difficult part for many of us may be identification, but we do our best to identify each species using a field guide (available at most public libraries if you’re not ready to purchase one) or a birding app.
The Fun Part
In addition to taking a few quiet minutes to observe birds, there are other benefits for participants. You get to see the the information as it is submitted online in real time by participants in your town and around the world. The data you submit is on file in your account, so that you can see how your local bird populations change over time. If you are new to birding, this is an excellent opportunity to learn to identify the species in your area. When children participate with their families, the time together is well spent. Participating in the count can reinforce many of the math and science concepts children learn in school, in a fun and exciting way. Plus it is a good way to instill a conservation ethic by doing something about an issue.
Mark Your Calendar For February 13-16
To prepare for the count, you may want to get organized. First, make sure you have a field guide that will help you identify the birds in your area. Second, go ahead and create an account here. Then print a bird checklist for your area here. Finally put it on your calendar (I’m sure you can find fifteen minutes somewhere within a four day period). Happy birding!