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Circle mid-February for the Great Backyard Bird Count

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Participating in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count is as easy as observing winter birds such as White-breasted Nuthatches for as little as 15 minutes on the Family Day Weekend, and then uploading the observations. The data from this citizen science initiative are valuable to researchers. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Every year on Ontario’s Family Day weekend in mid-February, the Great Backyard Bird Count occurs. It is a wonderful opportunity to participate in citizen science while enjoying the area’s beautiful winter birds.

This year, the Great Backyard Bird Count will run from the morning of Friday, February 17 to the evening of Monday, February 20.

You don’t need a huge time commitment – even 15 minutes of observing birds will help in achieving the goals of the initiative – and you don’t need advanced birding expertise. Online bird identification tools can enhance even basic knowledge of London birds.

Citizen science is another term for the crowd sourcing of bird observations. Bird scientists use data such as this to conduct formal research on a wide range of themes such as species’ range changes, population changes, and the impacts of climate change. It would be prohibitively expensive for the scientists to gather these data directly, so they rely on bird watchers who use online platforms such as eBird.

Participants in the Great Backyard Bird Count can count birds wherever they want. Perhaps that’s literally in your backyard, but it could also be a nature hot spot or anywhere that birds are found. When uploading the data, eBird prompts contributors to enter the time, location, species, and other information.

If you are a bird photographer, you can upload photographs on eBird or share photos of your bird watching crew. Details are online.

Kerrie Wilcox who co-ordinates the Canadian contributions to this initiative for Birds Canada recently reminded Bird Friendly London that this has become a wildly successful international citizen science program. The initiative became world-wide in scope in 2013. Kerrie told us that “last year 384,641 participants in 192 countries identified 7,099 species, providing a snapshot of where birds were around the world.”

In the global context, Canada had the third highest number of checklists submitted with 33,797. Merlin and eBird submissions together in Canada equaled more than 57,000 submissions. In spite of the COVID pandemic, Ontario did very well last year with the 15,177 checklists submitted from across the province. Click here for more detailed information about the 2022 results.

For information about eBird including how to get a free eBird account, check out an earlier Bird Friendly London blog post or visit eBird Canada. For information about the sound ID feature of the free Merlin app, check out a Bird Friendly London blog post from August 2022.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Birds Canada. Detailed participant instructions are also available online.

This can be a fun activity for your family or friends to participate in. Mark your calendar, fill your feeders, and be a citizen scientist!

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