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19 Years and Counting: The Great Backyard Bird Count Returns This Weekend

The Annual Citizen Science Event Makes Birding Accessible to All

As Valentine’s Weekend approaches, birders everywhere are showing their love for birds and conservation during the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Now in its 19th year, the GBBC will take place worldwide February 12 – 15. The data gathered and reported by citizen scientists in North Carolina will contribute to ongoing research to help better understand how birds are affected by our changing climate.

“Citizen science events like the GBBC contribute greatly to our bird conservation efforts in North Carolina,” said Heather Hahn, Executive Director of Audubon North Carolina. “The data collected this weekend will provide key insights on how birds are moving across the landscape and where they are thriving or in trouble. It will also give us critical information on how climate change is impacting birds.”

Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. Bird watchers from more than 100 countries participated in last year’s count, documenting over 5,000 species -- nearly half the possible bird species in the world -- on more than 147,000 bird checklists.

"We've seen huge storms in western North America plus an unusually mild winter, until recently, in much of the Northeast," notes Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham. "And we're seeing birds showing up in unusual places, such as a Great Kiskadee in South Dakota, as well as unseasonal records like Orchard Oriole and Chestnut-sided Warbler in the Northeast. We’re curious to see what other odd sightings might be recorded by volunteers during this year’s count."

North Carolina continues to be a top-performing state for the GBBC ranking 7th in 2015. North Carolina birders documented 206 species during the GBBC last year turning in 4,500 checklists. The coast saw more bird species and higher numbers of some species including the highest individual counts for Snow Geese, Double-crested Cormorants, Tundra Swans, Red-winged Blackbirds and Ring-billed Gulls. Rare species were also a fun find in the count with citizens spotting the Rufous Hummingbird and Western Tanager. With the extreme weather patterns and higher-than-normal temperatures, participants may expect some unusual sightings this week.

This year, Audubon is asking citizens to “Pledge to Fledge”, a campaign to encourage new birders to join the fun of the GBBC. This four-day event is a great opportunity to empower citizens of all skill levels to take an active role in birding and conservation efforts in our state.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with nature and show some love for birds this Valentine’s Day weekend. Participation is free and easy. GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society along with Bird Studies Canada. To learn more about how to join the count, to download instructions, obtain a slide show, create web buttons and gather other materials, visit While you’re there, get inspired by the winning photos from the 2015 GBBC photo contest and take a look at regional bird activity here.


About Audubon North Carolina

With a century of conservation history in North Carolina, Audubon strives to conserve and restore the habitats we share with all wildlife, focusing on the needs of birds. Audubon North Carolina achieves its mission through a blend of science-based research and conservation, education and outreach, and advocacy. Audubon North Carolina has offices in Corolla, Boone, Wilmington and Chapel Hill. Learn more at and @audubonnc.

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