17th annual count Friday, February 14, through Monday, February 17, 2014

[If you're reading this in a later year, go to the GBBC websiteĀ for the correct dates.]

Watching birds and learning about them is one of my favorite activities. It has taught me to be more observant and to feel more connected with the natural world around me. In learning the habits, habitats, and migration patterns of different birds, I've become more attuned to changes in the environment and the seasons. Last year I discovered I could actually make a contribution to the study and knowledge of birds by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are. You can send in a GBBC checklist from anywhere in the world, and everyone is welcome, from beginners to experts.

It's free, fun, and it helps the birds

Choose your time each day from 15 minutes to as long as you like. You'll tally the number of individual birds of each species you see during the period you count on any given day and enter these numbers into the GBBC website.

New this year? Set up a free GBBC account

Or use login information fromĀ an existing account for any other Cornell Lab citizen-science project.Ā Youā€™ll only need to do this once to participate in all future GBBC events. Click “Submit Your BirdĀ Checklist” at the top of each GBBC website page or seeĀ How to ParticipateĀ for more details.

As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported.

Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see for the GBBC photo contest. A selection of images is posted in the online photo gallery.

Why count birds?

The information gleaned from the Great Backyard Bird Counts helps scientists and bird enthusiasts track the dynamic bird populations that are constantly in flux. It would be virtually impossible for any single scientist or even a team of scientists to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.

Scientists use the GBBC information, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to understand what's happening to bird populations. The longer these data are collected, the more significant they are for helping scientists investigate questions such as:

  • How do migration patterns and timing change from one year to the next?
  • How do weather and climate change influence bird populations?
  • How does bird diversity change in cities compared with suburban, rural, and natural areas?
  • Where are winter finches and other ā€œirruptiveā€ species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?
  • Are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?

Have more questions?Photo of male goldfinch on sunflower

Visit the GBBC Frequently Asked Questions Page.

I'll be participating. Will you?

Let me know in the comments below or join the conversation at my Facebook Page.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada and sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.

Photo credits:
“Backyard Habitat” (Male Cardinal) by Mike Munchel, Camp Hill, PA, via StockXChng
“Goldfinch on Sunflower” by Karen Fenton, Ypsilanti, MI, via StockXChng
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