It’s time for the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count!

2/3/2017 | 0

Dark-eyed Junco was the most frequently reported species in the 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count. This one was in Red Oak, Iowa. Photo by Deb Crouse.

Dark-eyed Junco was the most frequently reported species in the 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count. This one was in Red Oak, Iowa. Photo by Deb Crouse.

It’s time again to count birds! The annual Great Backyard Bird Count starts on Friday, February 17.

Birdwatchers of all ages around the world will count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists online. All the data contribute to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the past 20 years. This year’s count takes place February 17-20.

According to the Cornell Lab, last year’s count was “epic.” Almost 164,000 birders from more than 130 countries joined in. Participants submitted 162,052 checklists and reported 5,689 species — more than half the known bird species in the world and 599 more species than the previous year.

The total included 784 species in India, the most tallied in any country, 758 in Colombia, 752 in Ecuador, and 702 in Mexico.

More than 18 million individual birds were counted, six million more than in 2015. Last year’s total included 1,405,349 Snow Geese, 1,166,166 Canada Geese, and more than 600,000 European Starlings.

Birdwatchers in the United States turned in 131,290 checklists, more than any other country and more than in the 2015 count. They recorded 665 species, the fifth highest total. Counters in Canada submitted 13,651 checklists and tallied 246 species.

Most frequently reported species

Dark-eyed Junco (pictured above)
Northern Cardinal
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay

Three lesser-known relatives of American Robin were reported in the United States in 2016 — White-throated Thrush, Clay-colored Thrush, and Rufous-backed Robin. Kenn Kaufman explained how to identify Clay-colored Thrush and Rufous-backed Robin in “ID Tips” in our December 2016 issue. He also included the pair in an intriguing list of species in the genus Turdus that we birders in the United States or Canada should watch for.

Why don’t you join the fun this year? If you’re new to the Great Backyard Bird Count, or have not participated since before the 2013 merger with eBird, you will have to create a free online account to enter your checklists.

The count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. Bird Studies Canada is a partner.

Scientists use information gathered during the count, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to understand what is happening to bird populations. The longer such data are collected, the more meaningful they become. This year’s Great Backyard Bird Count will be the 20th.

Learn more about the Great Backyard Bird Count.

See photos of birds in our U.S. and Canada and Backyard galleries.

Kenn Kaufman’s list of 10 relatives of American Robin you could see this winter.


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