For a quarter of a century the annual Great Backyard Bird Count has been a bright spot for nature lovers. The 25th edition of the event is coming up February 18 through 21, 2022. Everyone is invited to join the count so their birds become part of a massive database used by scientists to track changes in bird populations over time.
“Birds tell us how our environment and climate are changing,” said Chad Wilsey, chief scientist at the National Audubon Society. “By joining the Great Backyard Bird Count, participants can contribute valuable data that help scientists better understand our surroundings. Together we can use this information to better protect birds and the places they need.”
Each participant counts birds for any length of time (but for at least 15 minutes) and reports what they see online. It’s easy for people of all skill levels. “Sometimes people feel intimidated about jumping into the world of birds if they have no previous experience,” said Patrick Nadeau, president of Birds Canada. “The Great Backyard Bird Count is a wonderful way to get your feet wet, feel the warmth of the community, and start to realize the wonders in your own neighborhood. The tools and resources are free. And you are helping birds when you get involved.”
Participants enter a new checklist for each new location or time of day during the four-day count. There are also tools and information on the GBBC website to help new and returning birders. You’re also invited to tune in to a special webinar about how to participate in the GBBC. It’s being held February 16 from 2:00 to 3:00 PM Eastern Time. It’s free. Just register to attend the Facebook livestream.
A record number of participants joined the 2021 count. An estimated 300,000 people submitted checklists reporting 6,436 species.
“The GBBC is about the birds, but it’s also about the people,” said David Bonter, the Cornell Lab’s co-director at the Center for Engagement in Science and Nature. “It’s clear from scientific studies that getting outdoors or connecting with nature — even watching or listening to birds from home — does people a lot of good.”
Many GBBC participants discover a fascination with birds for the first time and find it a welcome distraction from pandemic worries, as this new birdwatcher from Maryland explains.
“Like many others I found solace in the natural world, especially in birds,” said participant Anna Anders about birding during the pandemic. “I now had time to observe and learn more about them. I began going birding, put out more feeders and a bird bath, took birding classes, and started my life list…I can’t wait to do the GBBC…and continue my birding journey!”
All participants are urged to watch birds safely as they begin or continue their own birding journey. That means following COVID protocols for your area, not gathering in large groups, and wearing masks if you’re unable to remain at least six feet apart from others.