This weekend is the 25th anniversary of the Great Backyard Bird Count. If you were a bird this might make you super paranoid, as suddenly, everyone is watching. For humans, it means you spend a minimum of 15 minutes counting birds, and afterward report what you see to the number-cracking scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
People who want to participate must first set up a free eBird account at ebird.org so that they can report their birds sightings. The count offers a good opportunity to get kids involved in birding. Field guides available locally can be a good starting point and help to get children’s eyes away from screens, even if their screen time is nature-related. But the free Merlin bird identification app can also help novice birders.
The count happens from Friday through Monday, and participants don’t have to be in their backyards. All they need to do is say where they counted the birds, when, and which birds they observed.
Birds are most active in the early parts of the day. Note what you see. Referencing last week’s “On the Wing” column in The Star, you could count gulls at the beach. Or, stop at the East Hampton Nature Trail and count the ducks. Or simply look out your window. When you’redone, enter your observations on eBird.
This global event has been growing in each of its 25 years of existence. On birdcount.org, participants can watch as lists are submitted around the world. Apart from learning about which birds are active at this time of year and where, this count is a good way for adults and children to learn about geography. EBird uses the data to give conservation scientists a global snapshot of bird populations. And, if you see anything interesting, you can email it to The Star’s “On the Wing” columnist, at [email protected].
Becca Rodomsky-Bish, the project leader for the Great Backyard Bird Count, said that the single most important thing people can do to help declining bird populations is to “create native
habitat in and around their homes and communities.” When winter lifts in a few weeks, people who counted birds in their backyards this weekend can start thinking about what native plants they want to add to their yards to support birds. A useful webinar about the
Great Backyard Bird count is archived at bit.ly/3GTooff.