Be A Citizen Scientist In The Great Backyard Bird Count

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Hawk by John Casson

The 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count takes place from February 14 to 17, giving citizen scientists a chance to help researchers learn how birds are affected by environmental changes. So get the family together, and participate:

1. Pick a spot — any spot — where there are birds. Your yard, a playground, a schoolyard, Prospect Park, etc.

2. Register to enter data.

3. Count every bird you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the GBBC and enter results on the GBBC website.

Last year, more than 34.5 million birds and 4,351 species were recorded in the GBBC — which is more than one-third of the world’s total bird species, documented in just four days!

A good example of how this long-term recording can be valuable is some info they’ve gathered about the effect of West Nile virus on birds. After the West Nile virus was first documented in New York in 1999, GBBC reports of American Crows declined, ranking fourth or fifth in the top 10 most frequently reported bird in the GBBC in 2002, and dropping to ninth or tenth from 2003 to 2010. But in the past three counts, they’ve seen an improvement in this ranking: seventh in 2011, and back up to fifth in 2012, sixth in 2013, possibly signaling some recovery for the species.

The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada. You can learn more about the project here.

Photo of a hawk in a Berkely Place backyard by John Casson

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