This weekend marks the 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Thousands of participants will be watching their yards and feeders to see which kinds and how many birds show up for the census. I enjoy watching the birds anyway, so officially counting them isn't really much of a chore. And it's something that anyone can do.
There is a regional bird list to help you, listing birds that are common in your area. You simply enter your zip code and it will give you a list. Each bird on your list has a link to the Cornell University site that has all kinds of wonderful information on each species of bird, complete with pictures and recordings of bird sounds. This may help you identify mystery birds. Now won't that be fun - learning what those birds are at your feeder that you see all the time?
Don't worry if you don't recognize every species of bird you see. You'll report what you do see, using their online form. Be sure to read the instructions on reporting and you'll see just how easy it is to do.
|There's a party goin' on right here...|
I participated for the first time last year. I saw my first robin of the season during the count. I usually see them all winter long, but last winter, they didn't come around until then.
The count starts today at 7:00 AM EST and runs through Monday evening. Like I said, you can do it whenever you wish during this time period. You'll be able to check which birds are being seen in your area as the count takes place and observers are entering their counts. You can submit photos to the site, too. In fact, they're giving away some great prizes to the winners of their photo contest and from among those who enter data!
|Clearly size matters, because the only two birds I've ever seen a blue jay |
share the feeder with are the mourning dove (shown here) and the red-bellied
woodpecker, both of which are larger birds.
Why do this? You'll help naturalists answer these questions:
- How is this winter's weather influencing bird populations?
- Where are winter finches and other “irruptive” species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?
- How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
- What birds appear in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
- Are any birds undergoing worrisome declines that may point to the need for conservation attention?
So besides being a fun thing to do, you'll be helping by supplying some very important data.
If you do participate, I invite you to take photos of your birds, if possible, and blog about what you saw. Just like last year, let me know you did, by either e-mailing me or leaving a comment to this post and I'll list a link to your blog when I do my own report here, after the count period is over.