It is that time again. The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up next weekend, Friday February 14 through Monday the 17. It is a joint project of the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. As many of you know, it is an effort in which amateur birders can help scientists better understand the population dynamics and movements of birds.
Those of us that watch birds have noticed that the abundance and diversity of bird species in and around your homes and feeders during winter can be quite variable. Scientists are trying to get a better understanding of these differences. With our help they can obtain some real-time data on where the birds are each year during four days in February.
You don’t have to be a bird expert, and participating is easy. As their website notes, participating is as easy as 1,2,3! You just count birds in your area for at least 15 minutes for as many of the days as you like. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species you see together at any one time. Then when you’re finished, submit your results.
Since its inception in 1998 this citizen-science project has become quite a successful venture with participants around the world submitting checklist of their observations. Last year participants documented the whereabouts of nearly 7,000 species in over 100 countries.
Here in North Dakota last year, volunteers submitted over 200 checklists from several locations across the state, documenting the abundance of over 60 species ranging from a long-eared owl near Dunn to a gyrfalcon, as well as northern flickers and robins. Yes, some robins seem to stay around during our North Dakota winters. But checklists were only submitted from 29 counties, so there are lots of gaps in the whereabouts of our birds.
Go to the Great Backyard Bird Count website to find all the information necessary to participate, as well as lots of good information on the project and birds in general. So consider participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count this year. Not only will you enjoy some bird watching, but you will also be helping scientists better understand the winter movements of our feathered friends.