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Spotlight: Help Us Count Birds, Become a Citizen Scientist

Spotlight: Help Us Count Birds, Become a Citizen Scientist

Help scientists get the “big picture” about bird populations.

Bird, Birdcount You can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count from anywhere, just bring your binoculars! (Steve Hillebrand/FWS)

Count Birds!

Become a “citizen scientist” this winter by participating in the 115th Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) or the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The CBC is the longest running citizen-science survey in the world and is a joint project between the National Audubon Society and partners in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The National Audubon Society, with international partner Bird Studies Canada. Both events engage bird watchers of all ages and all experience levels. As a participant, you will tally the number of individual birds of each species you see during a count period and then enter the numbers using the event website.

Scientists use your information, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as Project FeederWatch and eBird, to get the “big picture” about what is happening to bird populations. The longer citizens collect the information, the more meaningful the data becomes. Scientists use this data to investigate such far-reaching questions as when do birds migrate? Or how might climate changes influence bird populations?

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Get Started

The Christmas Bird Count events can take place any day from December 14, 2014, through January 5, 2015. CBC counts require at least 10 volunteers spread out over a 15-mile (24.1 km) diameter area. Many federal lands sponsor CBC events, so find a count near you and check the map for locations across the U.S.

The Great Backyard Bird Count takes place February 13–16, 2015. Watch this slide show to learn how you can participate. Count birds from any location for as little as 15 minutes on one day, or as long as you like each day of the event. Count birds in your own backyard, or on local city, county, regional, state or federal lands. Get started by checking out the GBBC’s website. You’ll need to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the GBBC and submit a new checklist for each new day and each new location. If you’re new to bird watching, you might want to also explore the GBBC website for help with tricky bird identifications, choosing binoculars, bird feeding tips, and much more.

Try This

Birding on National Wildlife Refuges

Refuges are great places for birding— and there is at least one refuge within an hour of most major U.S. metropolitan areas. Together they encompass more than 150 million acres and provide habitat for more than 700 bird species. Each year, millions of migrating birds use refuges as stepping stones for the long flight between their summer and winter homes. Visit the National Wildlife Refuge System website to learn about birding on refuges for kids and families or backyard birding. Read inspiring bird conservation stories, or get involved with our conservation efforts.

Make Sure You

Parents and teachers--check out the GBBC website for some cool activities for kids. Print out images and fact sheets to color, print out jigsaw puzzles, identify birds by sound by playing the Guess Who’s Squawkin’ game, complete a word puzzle and more.

Don’t Forget

As a participant, you can send in photographs of the birds you see for the 2015 GBBC photo contest. Visit the on-line photo gallery to view a selection of 2014 entries.