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Show the birds some love during 23rd annual Great Backyard Bird Count this Valentine’s Day weekend


A Caspian Tern spotted in Mississippi during the 2019 GBBC. (Photo by Sharon Milligan)

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) returns for its 23rd year Valentine’s Day weekend, Feb. 14-17. This year’s count begins Friday and continues through Monday. Volunteers from around the world 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

There is no better time to get involved because scientists say we are facing a bird emergency. In a recent 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. Counting birds for science is one simple action that individuals can take to protect birds and the places where they live.

“In order to understand where birds are and how their numbers are changing, we need everybody’s help,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program which collects the GBBC data. “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.

“Birds are important because they’re excellent indicators of the health of our ecosystems. 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,” says Chad Wilsey, interim Chief Scientist for National Audubon Society. “All over the world people are paying more attention to our environment and how it’s changing. There’s a lot of bad news out there, but in just 15 minutes you can be part of a global solution to the crises birds and people are facing.”

Florida 2019 GBBC (Photo by Ruben Marchena)

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. Go out, have fun, and take heart that you are helping birds and nature!”

To learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit birdcount.org.

From The Great Backyard Bird Count, 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.


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