With artic cold temperatures arriving this weekend, maybe the chilliest of the winter season, it sounds like a good time to have some fun indoors counting birds at outdoor bird feeders or around the yard. It’s time again for the Great Backyard Bird Count!
The 19th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will be held Friday, February 12, through Monday, February 15, 2016. This is a free, fun, and easy event that asks bird watchers of all ages to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report sightings online at birdcount.org. This will help create a real-time snapshot of bird populations.
Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It’s a fun way to stay connected or get acquainted to bird life in your neighborhood while staying warm and dry in the comfort of your home. It's also a great way to get kids involved in nature activities and science!
If you have never participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count before, you need to get started by registering at http://gbbc.birdcount.org/get-started/. All the information you need is found here. An app, called eBird, is also available that helps with identifying birds and uploading your results—but this is not a required item to participate. Just create an account, read the instructions and start watching birds. Report your count back to the web site.
Each checklist submitted during the GBBC helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing, and how to protect them and the environment we share. Last year, more than 140,000 people around the world submitted their bird observations online, creating the largest instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations ever recorded.
Unfortunately, yards and neighborhoods around New York Harbor (especially the Lower Bay), Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook Bay always seem under represented every year. As a result, we are missing valuable information about bird populations in one of the most densely populated coastline in the world. Whether you are an expert or novice please consider taking part in the count this weekend and create a checklist. Get involved, invite your friends, and see how your neighborhood stacks up.
Don’t have a birdfeeder, now is a good time to get started. Feeding birds during cold and snowy months will help keep bodies warm and sustain bird populations with a reliable source of food for wintertime survival.
Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time. Bird populations are always shifting and changing. The data gathered and reported by volunteer scientists will contribute to ongoing research to help better understand how birds are affected by climate change, and where they are thriving or in trouble.
There are many reasons why we should care about birds, especially in our local environment. They are important species that help to control insects and annoying pests in our neighborhood. They help to spread seeds and pollinate plants, which in turn help grow plants and trees, which help to protect our drinking water by preventing erosion.
Birds also help to fuel healthy economies by increasing eco-tourism and the formation of parks and nature preserves. Rare birds encourage tourists; many people like to listen to bird songs and go bird watching. In the United States, birders number in the tens of millions and spend upwards of $20 billion dollars per year on birdseed, travel, and birding paraphernalia. Average yearly spending by active birders averages between $1,500 and $3,400, with travel being the major expenditure, according to Paul Kerlinger of the Cape May Bird Observatory in a report written in the 1990s.
Most importantly, birds are excellent indicators of a healthy ecosystem. If a bird species is declining then there is something wrong within an ecosystem.
By studying and preserving bird populations in our local environment we help to protect the delicate balance of nature in soil, water, and of the organisms of the earth. Birds can tell us something about the health of the environment, and the impacts we are having on it. We just have to appreciate the birds in our neighborhood.
Please visit the Great Backyard Bird Count website for more information and updates: http://gbbc.birdcount.org/.