The 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is set to take place from February 14 through to February 17 in multiple locations all over the world. This four day event calls on bird watchers of all ages and levels of experience to count the birds they see in one location over a fifteen-minute period. Participants need only do one fifteen-minute stint, but are welcome to do more than that if they have the time. After tallying the number of individual birds of each species spotted within the fifteen-minute time period, birders enter the data on the GBBC website.
Data gathered from all over the world is valuable to researchers in many ways, particularly when it is compared with data collected in previous years. Information from the GBBC and other projects supported by citizen-scientists help researchers determine the health of various species by monitoring changes in populations; how the weather influences bird populations; changes in the timing of annual migrations; how diseases affect birds in specific regions; and where irruptive species go when they don’t visit the same location as the previous year. It also helps researchers with a comparison of bird diversity within city limits, suburbs, rural areas and reserves.
Through projects like the GBBC, modern technology offers birders the opportunity to be part of a worldwide community, while at the same time gathering information that no team of scientist would ordinarily be able to do. Thousands of people in more than one hundred countries will be participating in the event, which is supported by the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. It’s also the perfect opportunity for children to learn about the importance of birds within their environment, and how birds are an indicator of the general health of the ecology. So, why not do your bit and register for the 2014 Great Backyard Bird Count.
Established and directed by Dr. Peter P. Marra of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in Washington, DC, the Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch opens up opportunities for ordinary citizens to get involved in a nationwide program by being biologists in their own backyards. Participants in the program will gain an in-depth understanding of birds in their neighborhood, while assisting scientists to gather crucial information with regard to the survival of backyard bird populations.