Great Backyard Bird Count can include local volunteers

Tri-State Area residents can join with volunteers from around the world in being a part of the 23rd-annual Great Backyard Bird Count.

This year’s count begins on Valentine’s Day, Friday, and continues through Feb. 17. Volunteers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, and then enter their checklists at birdcount.org.

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

“There is no better time to get involved because we are facing a bird emergency,” a news release from the count organizers notes. In a study published by the journal Science last fall, scientists revealed a decline of more than one in four birds in the United States and Canada since 1970 — 3 billion birds gone. “In addition to these steep declines, Audubon scientists projected a grim future for birds in Survival By Degrees, a report showing nearly two-thirds of North America’s bird species could disappear due to climate change. Birds from around the world are facing similar challenges and declines,” the release continues.

Counting birds for science is one simple action that individuals can take to protect birds and the places where they live, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program which collects the GBBC data.

“In order to understand where birds are and how their numbers are changing, we need everybody’s help,” Iliff said. “Without this information, scientists will not have enough data to show where birds are declining.”

With more than 10,000 species in the world, it means all hands on deck to monitor birds found in backyards and neighborhoods as well as in suburban parks, wild areas and cities, he added.

“Birds are important because they’re excellent indicators of the health of our ecosystems,” said Chad Wilsey, interim Chief Scientist for National Audubon Society. “Participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count is one of the easiest and best ways to help scientists understand how our changing climate may be affecting the world’s birdlife.”

During the 2019 GBBC, bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted more than 210,000 bird checklists reporting a record 6,850 species-more than half the known bird species in the world. Bird count data become more and more valuable over time because they highlight trends over many years, apart from the normal short-term fluctuations in bird populations.

“At times, we can feel like there’s little we can do on environmental issues,” says Steven Price, president of Birds Canada. “The Great Backyard Bird Count gives all bird enthusiasts a chance to help, as well as a great opportunity to include family and friends of all skill levels in a common conservation effort. “

For information, visit birdcount.org.