Citizen Scientists Wanted this Weekend for the Great Backyard Bird Count

Western MA Families Can Participate as Citizen Scientists During the 14th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend

“Whether people notice birds in backyards, parks, or wilderness areas, we ask that they share their counts at http://www.birdcount.org,” said Judy Braus, Audubon’s senior vice president of Education and Centers. “It’s fun and rewarding for people of all ages and skill levels.” (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count began today Friday, February 18th, and extends through the holiday weekend until February 21st. Parents and kids of all ages and skill levels are needed to count birds in their yards, neighborhoods, or other places they may be traveling to during school vacation. Simply tally birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count, then go to www.birdcount.org and enter the highest number of each species seen at any one time.

Coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada, the count provides an instantaneous snapshot of birdlife across the continent for all to see. Anyone can watch as the tallies come in at http://www.birdcount.org. Organizers hope to receive more than 100,000 checklists during the event, with tallies of more than 600 birds species in all.

Last year’s participants reported more than 1.8 million American Robins, as well as rarities such as the first Red-billed Tropicbird in the count’s history. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

“When thousands of people all tell us what they’re seeing, we can detect changes in birds’ numbers and locations from year to year,” said Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Data from the Great Backyard Bird Count can provide an early signal of changes in bird populations. Past counts showed a drop in reports of American Crows after outbreaks of West Nile virus in 2003, a finding consistent with studies showing crow populations declined by 50–75% in some states. Maps from the count have also captured the paths of migrating Sandhill Cranes and recorded the dramatic spread Eurasian Collared-Doves. Introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s, the species was reported in just 8 states during the 1999 GBBC. A decade later, it was reported in 39 states and Canadian provinces.

For more information, including bird-ID tips, instructions, and past results, visit  www.birdcount.org.

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