18,637,974 individual birds were counted over a four-day period, according to data that was submitted to Cornell University in the month following the 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count. A whopping 5,689 different species were identified from across the world, and 162,052 checklists were submitted. What does this have to do with the price of a pigeon feather? Just that all of these checklists and birds were submitted and identified by regular, everyday people like you and I.
The Great Backyard Bird Count was first launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with the intention of gathering data that could never otherwise be collected. The count is considered a citizen-science project, in which regular, everyday people collect groundswork data that is submitted to the scientific community for analysis. This allows for many more eyes and ears that are able to collect data, an exponential increase in the number of hours that are able to go into collection, as well as data that can be submitted from private property that would otherwise be missed. In 2016, data was submitted from more than 130 countries across the world, which is an amazing collection of information that covers a very short period of time. No single group of scientists could ever gather all that data alone. Data collected is used to study trends in species distribution, migration patterns, as well as gain insights in numbers and whereabouts of endangered and threatened species. Because data is submitted from across the world, patterns can become apprent that drive international conservation initiatives.
I did submit one of those 162,052 checklists last year and the 2017 Great Backyard Bird Count will be my third year participating in the event. This year, the count runs from Friday, February 17th to Monday the 20th and entails having participants spend a minimum of 15 consecutive minutes a day viewing, listening to, and recording the species present during their viewing. Data is collected regarding number of individuals of each species observed, start and end times, temperature/weather, and whether the observer(s) were stationary or travelling. People can participate singly or as a group. Data is submitted online or via the eBird app that is free for download on your favorite device. Your account with either of these allows you to see current data in your area, your country, and world wide.
For more information on how to participate, as well as tips for identifying tricky species and data from past years, visit http://gbbc.birdcount.org.