Calling All Birders: Join the Great Backyard Bird Count

If you're a beginning birder or an experienced birdwatcher, join the Great Backyard Bird Count. It's easy, fun and will help scientists learn about birds.

American Goldfinch 2020gbbc 73154 Deborah Bifulco Nj Great Backyard Bird CountDeborah Bifulco
American goldfinch

Many people enjoyed birdwatching during the past year, seeking to relax and connect with nature. Chickadees, cardinals, goldfinches and other birds are doing their part to lift human spirits. The 24th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a great opportunity for all budding birdwatchers and bird-count veterans to identify birds. People from around the world count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, and then enter their checklists online.

Why is the Great Backyard Bird Count Important?

“The GBBC is a simple, welcoming project that both new and veteran birdwatchers enjoy,” says David Bonter, with the Center for Engagement in Science and Nature at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Birds are everywhere and can be counted in backyards, neighborhoods, suburban parks, wild areas, and cities. Scientists need the eyes of the world to collect information about where the birds are.”

During the 2020 GBBC, birdwatchers set new records for the event, turning in nearly 250,000 lists of birds observed, from more than 100 countries, identifying nearly 7,000 of the world’s estimated 10,000 bird species. Data gathered by the GBBC and other survey projects reveal changes in the numbers and range of wild birds over time.

“By participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, community scientists contribute data that we use to protect birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow,” said Chad Wilsey, Ph.D., chief scientist at National Audubon Society. “In return, studies tell us that pausing to observe birds, their sounds and movements, improve human health. Participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count is a win-win for birds and people.”

Learn 7 ways to be a better birder.

How to Join the Great Backyard Bird Count

This year there is a new way to send in an observation—through the Cornell Lab’s free Merlin Bird ID app. If you use the app during the GBBC and save a bird you’ve identified, it is also counted for the GBBC. As in the past, using the eBird platform on your mobile app and computer are still great ways to enter your data. Visit the How to Participate page to learn more about entering your bird sightings.

Check out 5 birding apps to give your skills a boost.

“Why not try something new?” says Steven Price, President of Birds Canada. “If you’re an experienced birder, set yourself a challenge to see how many new birders you can get interested in counting on their own patch. If you are just beginning to learn about the birds in your yard, see if you can identify 3 new birds (or 5 new birds or 10 new birds!).”

Stay Safe While Watching Birds

All participants are urged to watch birds safely in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. That means following health and safety guidelines, not congregating in large groups, and wearing face masks if you cannot stay at least six feet away from other birders. To learn more details about how to join the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit birdcount.org.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society and Birds Canada and is made possible in part by founding sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

Ready to get started? Check out 15 common backyard birds you should know.

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Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She enjoys growing vegetables in containers and raised beds and watching for birds in her backyard.