Today is the start of the 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) where you can be a citizen scientist and help researchers throughout the U.S. and Canada! Anyone of any age can participate and you can do it right from your own backyard. Some people even do bird counts from their apartment complex balcony. No prior experience in birding or conducting bird counts is necessary.
February is a great time of year to watch birds. We begin to see warmer weather and signs of spring, including the first stirrings of breeding activity of many bird species. From the songs of woodland birds to the pecking of woodpeckers to the souring of red-tailed hawks, there is much to see during this end-of-winter month. And, while your observing wildlife in action, take a little time to record what you see and submit your results to the Great Backyard Bird Count. The GBBC is a joint project led by three organizations: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada . It is sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited.
Here’s all you need to get started:
- Beg, borrow or buy a pair of binoculars. You can find a decent pair of birding binoculars at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Bring along a camera too!
- Determine where you’d like to conduct your bird count. It can be as simple as your backyard or from your office window. If you get the kids involved, be sure to talk to them about the bird count beforehand and involve them in fun birding-related activities online. You may also find some local groups with which you can participate.
- Download a printable tally sheet to help you keep track of the species most commonly found in your location. If you are new to birding there are a number of bird guides with photos and sounds, species identification tips and other resources that you can use as references.
- Make note of your count date, time and location as well as well as the habitats you observe and the weather condition. This information will need to be submitted once you are done with your count. You can use this data form as a guide.
- Spend at least 15 minutes on any one day observing and recording the number of each species you find. You want to make sure that you record the largest number of species you see at once during your count — avoid duplicating your counts if you see the same species within minutes of each other. It’s also best to record those species that you are certain you have correctly identified.
- Once you’ve completed your bird count, you can submit your bird checklist online.
- If you took photos, consider entering the photo contest and win one of many GBBC prizes.
- If interested to know the results of the entire Great Backyard Bird Count, you can explore the results in the form of maps, state tallies, top 10 lists and detailed reports.
That’s about it! There’s not much to it and only takes a few minutes of your time. For more detailed information, visit the GBBC website. Happy birding!
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