The Great Backyard Bird Count
This citizen science program creates an annual snapshot of bird populations each February. Every observation you submit gives scientists more insight into research areas such as how birds are adapting to suburban sprawl, West Nile Virus, and climate change. It’s free, it's fun, and it makes a difference.
Make the most of your bird count with these handy tips
Where should I count birds, and for how long?
You can devote as little as 15 minutes on a single day, or as much as you want over the 4-day count period . You can stick to your window or yard, or you can count anywhere: your neighborhood, a local park, a rooftop, a national wildlife refuge or sanctuary, or a birding hotspot farther afield. You can also move between locations during the survey, so feel free to visit several different spots.
Bird Identification Tips
You might want to study up ahead of time to get a sense of the birds you're likely to see. Most of the species you will encounter will be local and familiar. (Snow Geese and European Starlings always rank among “most numerous” during the count.) The GBBC website offers online guides and ID tips you can use to hone your skills. You can also download the free Merlin ID app, which identifies birds from uploaded photos, or the new iPhone app Song Sleuth, which puts a name to a birdsong.
Share the Wealth
Once you’ve seen some beautiful birds and collected valuable data, leave the rest to the scientists by submitting your observations. For those using the mobile app, it’s a simple matter of reviewing your checklists for accuracy, adding photos, and then hitting "submit." If you plan to record your data by hand, the process is almost as easy: All you have to do is log in to the GBBC website, head to the "submit your observations" page, and then plug in your results and photos.
Collecting and Reporting Data
At each location, identify any species you see or hear, and tally up the number of individuals. Be as accurate as possible, but don’t panic if your numbers aren't precise. Counting a large flock is a challenge. Estimate when you have to: If you tally only 20 birds, but it seems like there are twice that many, 40 is a safe estimate.
Create a new checklist for each location and time: if you revisit a spot, start a new checklist. Remember to keep track of start and end times for each checklist, as well as distance traveled. The mobile app automatically tracks the time after you open a new checklist.
Tips adapted from this article by Devin Griffiths/National Audubon Society (2018)