Friday, February 17, 2012

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Grab your binoculars! Stock the feeders! This weekend is for the birds!


From Friday, February 17 through Sunday, February 20, you can help scientists and environmentalists by participating in The Great Backyard Bird Count. The goal of the event is to “create a real-time snapshot of where birds are across the continent,” according to the website, From tallying chickadees to counting cardinals, beginning bird watchers through experienced ornithologists join forces to track bird diversity and population throughout North America.

So, you might wonder--why is it important to count birds? Bird populations are constantly in flux. Through tracking the quantities and varieties of breeds, scientists and ecologists can determine how temperature changes affect populations. They compare timing of migration to past years. The count helps identify any problematic declines of bird populations, allowing conservation efforts to be initiated when appropriate. They look for regions where birds are affected by disease.

But scientists could never attain an accurate count without the help of volunteers—they just don't have the resources to track populations. That's where we enter the picture! Here's how it works:
  1. Count birds in your area for at least 15 minutes on one or more days over the weekend. Submit a separate checklist for each day you participate. Checklists can be found here.
  2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see at any one time. You can find a checklist of birds common to your area by entering your zip code here.
  3. Finally, enter your results here.
You can choose to perform a stationary count, which is a count of birds in one place—such as your backyard. As the Great Backyard Bird Count has become more popular, many organizations lead “bird walks” or hikes, which would be considered a traveling count. (The goal here is to avoid counting birds that you've already tallied.)

If you're an educator or parent, there are excellent resources on the website for children to prepare them to participate. And—if you don't know the difference between a bluejay and a bluebird, you'll also find resources to help you identify those feathered friends. Plus, of course, you can find a slew of smartphone apps to ID birds in your backyard.

So, get out there and play scientist for a day! Or, if it's cold and rainy—look out your window, and take a tally of the birds visiting your feeders. Whatever your level of interest, 15 minutes can make a big difference in understanding the behavior and patterns of our bird populations.

It's free. It's fun. It's family friendly.

Happy birding!

XO ~



  1. Thanks for links to those biggest problem is I just don't know what most of the birds actually are!

  2. Julie, I will count tomorrow morning, when they are all at the feeders. I heard a Great Horned Owl this evening when I was walking the dogs. Guess I can't count that since I didn't SEE it. Bummer.

  3. Hi Julie! I am soooo happy you stopped by to say hey and introduce yourself. I really appreciate that and will be looking for you during the Spring Fling. It promises to be a very fun time! Thanks for the reminder about the GBBC. I forgot but will do my best to count and learn. It's a good weekend for it too!

  4. What a beautiful birds you have over there! I like the 1st bird the most!

  5. Hi Julie! What a great post and photos! I will enthusiastically follow your blog to see what other lovely creatures you attract to your backyard habitat. Cheers!

  6. Hi Julie! What a great post and photos. I will enthusiastically follow your blog to see what other creatures you attract to your backyard habitat. Cheers!