Great Backyard Bird Count sets records for species, checklists, participants

Great Backyard Bird Count
A male Northern Cardinal in the snow. Photo by Steven Easterbrook

February’s Great Backyard Bird Count tallied more species (6,715), more checklists (205,779), and more participants (224,781) than ever before, according to results posted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (The species and checklist numbers reflect totals through March 22, while the participation total is through March 14; the final numbers may vary as more checklists are validated.)

Northern Cardinal was the most frequently reported species in the 2019 count — a spot it has held in nine of the last ten years. The cardinal was reported on 56,785 checklists — well above the second-place Dark-eyed Junco’s 50,397. For the first time, White-breasted Nuthatch joined the top-10 list of most frequently reported species, edging out European Starling.

The most numerous species was Red-winged Blackbird, with more than 4.3 million individuals. Other species topping 1 million birds were Snow Goose (2.5 million), European Starling (2 million), and Canada Goose (1.7 million).

International growth

“Outside the U.S. and Canada, participation in the GBBC is rising steeply,” organizers write. “In fact, India jumped over Canada to take the number two spot on this year’s worldwide checklist totals for the first time since the GBBC went international in 2013. The United Kingdom moved up two places and Portugal got knocked off the list this year. Every country on the list set a new checklist record, including the U.S. and Canada!”

Birders in the United States posted 136,903 checklists, while India came in with 21,524, Canada had 16,611, followed by Australia (2,811), Spain (2,391), and Mexico (1,697). The incredible avian diversity in Colombia becomes apparent when you consider that birders in the country reported more species — 1,095 — than they submitted checklists — 1,046. Other countries reporting high numbers of species were Ecuador (948), Brazil (844), and India (843).

This winter has seen the largest Evening Grosbeak movement in at least two decades. Photo by MDF/Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)

In the U.S. and Canada, good numbers of Evening Grosbeaks were a welcome sign for a species “that has been conspicuously absent for decades for unknown reasons.”

Organizers also note that “The northern finches also made it a special time for bird watchers in the northern states, with reports of Red Crossbill, Common Redpoll, Pine Grosbeaks, and Bohemian Waxwings. There were some Snowy Owl reports as well, but nothing that would indicate a significant irruption for the Arctic species or compare to the massive influx during the winter of 2013-14.”

Other notable sightings were a Savannah Sparrow that “was somehow surviving the winter at Cape Spear, Newfoundland and Labrador,” a first-ever-in-Arizona White-throated Thrush, and a Yellow Grosbeak in west-central Texas.

Maps from eBird show where Evening Grosbeak occurs in December

Read our newsletter!

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, and more delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up for Free
Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and BirdWatchingDaily.com. He joined the staff of BirdWatching (formerly Birder’s World) in 2000 and has worn many hats over the years: reporter, story wrangler, photo editor, managing editor, and now editor. Originally from Omaha, he lives with his wife and two daughters in Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Marquette University. You can reach Matt at (617) 706-9098 and [email protected].

Matt Mendenhall on social media