The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual event, is underway! Run by Birds Canada, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and National Audubon Society, the GBBC is a citizen-science project designed to get everybody involved in birding and to help scientists monitor global bird populations. In 2021, the count started on February 12 (Friday), and the last day to count will be February 15 (Monday). It doesn’t matter if you can only identify one bird, or if you are an ornithology professor, your count matters! This is a great way to get you and your family involved in birding, even if you are amateurs.
One of the best things about this count is that it is free, and the only thing you have to do is count for fifteen minutes, once. It’s so easy! As the name says, you can simply watch birds in your backyard for a little bit, and you are a scientist! Birders from all over the world participate in this count, so you will be joining a vast network of passionate bird-lovers. Just last year, almost 270,000 people counted a record 6,942 species through almost 250,000 checklists! That’s pretty impressive! You can see the full results from last year here. You also need to set up an eBird account to count, which is free, and is very easy to set up. You can submit your checklists through eBird when you count.
If you are itching to get involved but aren’t able to identify many species, don’t worry. Everybody starts out as a beginner! An amazing free tool that you can use to help you identify birds is Merlin Bird ID, which works, in my experience, very well. You put in where you saw the bird, when you saw it, what size it was, the main colors, and what it was doing. The app then gives you a list of birds it might be! For example, I put in all of the information for a Black-capped Chickadee (black and white, sparrow-sized, bird at a feeder in Camden, ME), and sure enough, it was the first bird on the list. Another thing you can do to improve your knowledge is go birding (safely) with people who are more knowledgeable than you, so you can learn. This technique has definitely helped me to know more species!
Overall, I would strongly recommend participating in this count. I have already submitted one checklist, and I am very excited to bird more this weekend! I hope you get involved and find a new way to get outside and have fun. Happy birding!