Why Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count?

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NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.- It was the weekend of The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) . I was walking around Westminster College’s Field Station, when I noticed a large bird peached on a limb where a field and the woods met. At a quick glance I was awed.

“It a Red-shoulder Hawk,” I said.

But, I quickly rerated that thought as I remembered about the Red-tailed Hawk. I was unsure of which kind of hawk I was looking at. Quickly I tried to get out my field guide to identify the bird, but regretted my decision as the hawk flew away. Pondering on what kind of hawk it was, I though to myself just write down that I saw either a Red-tailed Hawk or a Red-shoulder Hawk. Why does it matter to the Great Backyard Bird Count?


What’s the Great Backyard Bird Count?

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a one of a kind event. It is geared towards the beginner birder, all the way up to a professional ornithologist (bird scientists). This event helps ornithologists tack current bird populations accost the world. Since scientist cannot be everywhere at once to see where birds are located, the use of this citizen science project allows them to accurately identify where bird populations are. Since 1998 when the Cornell Lab or Ornithology and the National Audubon Society created the Great Backyard Bird Count, data has been collected and examined by ornithologists. One the data is examined it helps scientist can determine effects on birds due to weather and climate change, migration patterns, and bird diseases. All of this key information can therefore determine where conservation money and efforts go to help protect certain bird populations.


What are the Benefits to us?

Counting and identifying birds for the GBBC has several benefits to individuals and society. Benefits to individuals include learning about birds and how they are fascinating creatures. As far as society as a whole, the information that is collected is published for public records that allow anyone to access the information for further use.


Other Bird Counts

Since the Great Backyard Bird Count is during the spring, how do ornithologist gather data for other times of the year? Well there are other bird counts that allow scientist to gather information about bird population. During the wintertime there is a Christmas Bird Count, which is the nations longest-running citizen science project according to Audubon. This count is identical to the Great Backyard Bird Count, except it is during the winter.

Also another bird count that happens during the winter is Project FeederWatch, which requires volunteers to watch their local birdfeeders periodically from November to April. This project allows scientist to gather more specific information on broad scale movement of winter birds.

Finally there is eBird, which is the same database you send observations in during the GBBC. But, you can submit your observations anytime of the year.


How to Get Involved

Getting involved with the GBBC and other birding projects is fairly simple. You will need a few things to begin your adventures.

  1. A Field Guide (according to your area)
  2. Binoculars
  3. Notebook
  4. Computer or Ebird App

Once you have your supplies, study your field guide a bite to learn about bird species and how to correctly identify them. Once you are ready head out and go birding. Take at least 15 minutes to walk around or sit at a feeder. Use your binoculars to zoom in close to be able to identify the species. Once you can correctly identify the species write it down in your notebook.

Also keep notes in your notebook on where you went birding, weather conditions, how far you walked and party size. When you are finished birding sit down at your computer or your Ebird app and log on to Ebird account to enter in your information about your birding experience.

The video above will clearly explain how to correctly enter your finding into the database.


After learning about the GBBC and the other projects, I answered my question. It really does matter to correctly identify bird species. If you are incorrect you are sending out false information that can ultimately lead to some false data for years to come.

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