Citizen scientists across North Carolina are directing their eyes to the sky for Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) from February 14-17. Now in its 17th year, the four-day event encourages bird watchers of all ages and skill level to contribute to research and conservation efforts on a global level.
The GBBC allows anyone, anywhere, to become a citizen-scientist when they count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, and submit their sightings to www.BirdCount.org. The information gathered by volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible.
“Global count events like the GBBC provide invaluable data to our scientists that help further conservation efforts and a better understanding of birds’ distribution patterns,” says Curtis Smalling, Director of Land Bird Conservation for Audubon North Carolina “During this year’s Christmas Bird Count, for example, participants recorded a rare phenomenon, more than a dozen Snowy Owls have migrated to North Carolina for the winter. Results from the upcoming count will be able to more clearly show us where species are in the state and how that may have changed from year to year. This information can give us glimpses of how things like climate change and other changes in our world affect our birds.”
With 96 classified Important Bird Areas comprising 4.9 million acres, diverse landscapes from the mountains to the coast, and the state’s position along the Atlantic Flyway migration path, North Carolina continues to be a top-performing state for the GBBC. Last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count shattered records after going global for the first time, thanks to integration with the eBird online checklist program. Participants not only reported their bird sightings from all seven continents, including 111 countries and independent territories, they were able to view results in real-time. More than 34.5 million birds and 4,351 species were recorded—over one-third of the world’s total bird species documented in just four days.
And with its less structured design, the weekend event is a great opportunity to introduce children of all ages to the excitement of bird watching. Audubon has created games and activities to help parents engage their kids in the count, and foster a love of citizen science from an early age.
The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada. To learn more about Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count visit birdsource.org/gbbc.