Bird watchers take part in Great Backyard Bird Count

From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, bird watchers from more than 100 countries are expected to participate in the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count Feb. 14-17.

Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at BirdCount.org. The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible.

The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.

“People who care about birds can change the world,” said Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham. “Technology has made it possible for people everywhere to unite around a shared love of birds and a commitment to protecting them.”

In North America, GBBC participants will add their data to help define the magnitude of a dramatic irruption of magnificent snowy owls. Bird watchers will also be on the lookout for the invasive Eurasian collared-dove to see if it has expanded its range again. GBBC observations may help show whether or not numbers of American crows will continue to rebound after being hit hard by the West Nile virus and whether more insect-eating species are showing up in new areas, possibly because of changing climate.

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 launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab and Audubon.

Participants reported their bird sightings from all seven continents, including 111 countries and independent territories.

More than 34.5 million birds and 3,610 species were recorded — nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species documented in just four days.

To learn more about how to join the count visit birdcount.org and view the winning photos from the 2013 GBBC photo contest.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.