It’s time to prepare for The Great Backyard Bird Count! As its name implies, this grand event grew from simpler beginnings that included feeder counts but over the past quarter century the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) has expanded into a worldwide birding celebration that takes place over four days in February each year.
This year you can participate in the 26th annual GBBC anytime over President’s Day Weekend—birding as often and as long as you wish from February 17 to 20. It’s free, enjoyable, and easy for people from all walks of life to participate in identifying and counting birds to create a real time mid-winter snapshot of bird populations that provides valuable information for biologists, conservation leaders, and anyone interested in birds.
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Last year, birders from 192 countries reported approximately ¾ of the world’s bird species including 7,099 species of birds identified by 384,641 estimated global participants in 192 participating countries who submitted 359,479 eBird checklists and shared 141,990 photos.
Of course, everyone is invited to get involved ranging from first-timers to expert birders. You can provide information about the birds you see at your feeding station or yard and it’s a great opportunity to join together with others including members of your household or a birding club. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds Canada, and the National Audubon Society, along with the founding sponsor, Wild Birds Unlimited.
Today, the Great Backyard Bird Count is a global four day event that is easy ands fun—you can participate for 15 minutes or as many hours and days you prefer. By birding during the GBBC you join the other birders worldwide with the common goal of documenting and better understanding winter bird populations, winter ranges, and changes over years.
How to participate
Participating is easy, fun to do alone or with others, and can be done anywhere you find birds.
Step 1: Decide where you will watch birds.
Step 2: Watch birds for 15 minutes or more at least once over the four days, February 17-20, 2023.
Step 3: Identify all the birds you see or hear within your planned time/location and use the best tool for sharing your bird sightings:
If you are a beginning bird admirer and new to bird identification, use the Merlin Bird ID app to document the birds you see or hear
If you have participated in the count before and want to record numbers of birds, try the eBird Mobile app or enter your bird list on the eBird website (desktop/laptop)
If you already contribute to Merlin or eBird, continue what you are doing. All entries over the four-days count towards GBBC
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Three ways to enter data: Options and step-by-step instructions
Merlin Bird ID
If you are NEW to bird watching and bird identification and have a smartphone, GBBC recommends you use the Merlin Bird ID app to enter your first bird. It is FREE and easy to use.
Using Merlin Bird ID: www.birdcount.org/merlin-bird-id-app
Merlin covers bird species from 7 continents and is available in 18 languages.
If you are already using eBird to track your birding activity or an experienced bird watcher, the FREE eBird Mobile app is a fast way to enter your bird lists right from the palm of your hand.
Using eBird Mobile: www.birdcount.org/ebird-mobile-app
Desktop or laptop
If you prefer to enter your sightings on a computer, perhaps after making a list while on a hike or watching your feeders, the app will walk you through how.
Using eBird on a Computer: www.birdcount.org/ebird-on-computer
Why is the count in February?
Originally the Great Backyard Bird Count was held in the U.S. and Canada each February to create a snapshot of the distribution of birds just before spring migrations ramped up in March. Scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, Birds Canada, and elsewhere can combine this information with data from surveys conducted at different times of the year. In 2013, the count went global, creating snapshots of birds wherever they are in February, regardless of seasons across the hemispheres.
Where should I count birds?
You can count birds anywhere in the world from any location. Count in your backyard, at a local park, or wildlife refuge or wherever you like to watch birds.
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Can I include photos with my checklist/bird list?
Yes, both images and sound recordings can be included with your checklist. They will also be entered into the Macaulay Library archive at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Adding photos is especially helpful if you are reporting a rare or unusual species.
Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy, and celebration. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.