It’s Backyard Birding Time Again

February 12, 2016 | Jeff Wells

Credit: Jeff Wells

Each year, notable bird organizations convene to organize the Great Backyard Bird Count. Along with other major observation events such as the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), the goal is to enlist everyday birders to help gather data on which birds are where at various times of the year.

Today marks the beginning of the 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count, which will run through Sunday, February 14th. While events such as the BBS require a bit more of a time commitment, the great part about this weekend’s event is how easy it is to participate.

All you have to do is register, set aside a minimum of 15 minutes (or longer if desired) to observe birds, and count how many of which species you see. And as the name implies, you can do it from your backyard!

The data is collected by eBird, an amazing resource in which countless observations are uploaded each year. And even if you can’t make this year’s Backyard Bird Count, you can upload your observations from any time. That’s the beauty of data about birds: it doesn’t matter where you are or what time of year it is. All observations are helpful in feeding into the bigger picture of where birds are at what time.

Observations from everyday citizen scientists have a plethora of uses. A recent example is this fascinating animated map depicting the migration cycles of 118 different migratory birds (click for animation).

Those movements were created based off of millions of observations submitted into eBird over years.

Not long before that, Audubon used data collected from observations spanning decades to find out that more than half of the birds studied were at risk from climate change. This followed research based off of—you guessed it—data collected by everyday birders that found a large proportion of wintering ranges had shifted further north as a result of climate change.

The fact that you can help science while doing something already enjoyable in and of itself is icing on the cake!

Migration, Science, Thoughts about birds


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