Valentine’s Day is upon us, and what better way to show your love of birds than to take part in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count?
The GBBC, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and Birds Canada, begins on Valentine’s Day, Friday, February 14, and continues through Monday, February 17.
Volunteers from around the world count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, and then enter their checklists at birdcount.org. And while you may certainly count the birds in your yard as part of the event, the count is open to birds at any location — school grounds, parks, beaches, you name it.
There is no better time to get involved because we are facing a bird emergency. In a study published by the journal Science last fall, scientists revealed a decline of more than one in four birds in the United States and Canada since 1970 — 3 billion birds gone. In addition to these steep declines, Audubon scientists projected a grim future for birds in “Survival By Degrees,” a report showing nearly two-thirds of North America’s bird species could disappear due to climate change. Birds from around the world are facing similar challenges and declines. Counting birds for science is one simple action that individuals can take to protect birds and the places where they live.
“In order to understand where birds are and how their numbers are changing, we need everybody’s help,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program, which collects the GBBC data. “Without this information, scientists will not have enough data to show where birds are declining.”
With more than 10,000 species in the world, it means all hands on deck to monitor birds found in backyards and neighborhoods as well as in suburban parks, wild areas, and cities.
Be part of the solution
“Birds are important because they’re excellent indicators of the health of our ecosystems. Participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count is one of the easiest and best ways to help scientists understand how our changing climate may be affecting the world’s birdlife,” says Chad Wilsey, interim Chief Scientist for National Audubon Society. “All over the world people are paying more attention to our environment and how it’s changing. There’s a lot of bad news out there, but in just 15 minutes you can be part of a global solution to the crises birds and people are facing.”
During the 2019 GBBC, birdwatchers from more than 100 countries submitted more than 210,000 bird checklists reporting a record 6,850 species – more than half the known bird species in the world. Bird count data become more and more valuable over time because they highlight trends over many years, apart from the normal short-term fluctuations in bird populations.
“At times, we can feel like there’s little we can do on environmental issues,” says Steven Price, president of Birds Canada. “The Great Backyard Bird Count gives all bird enthusiasts a chance to help, as well as a great opportunity to include family and friends of all skill levels in a common conservation effort. Go out, have fun, and take heart that you are helping birds and nature!”
To learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit birdcount.org.