Join Us for the 2014 Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb 14–17

February 5, 2014

Snowy Owl by Diane McAllister/GBBC

The 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is less than two weeks away, taking place all around the world February 14–17. This week we unveiled a brand-new GBBC website with a fresh look. Our aim was to make it easier for you to find exactly what you need to participate, and to integrate better with eBird, with which the GBBC merged last year. If you’ve never participated in the GBBC before, or if it’s been a while since you took part, hop over to after you’re finished reading to do a bit of exploring.

When the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society first launched the GBBC in 1998, no one knew whether it was possible to involve thousands of people in reporting and exploring bird data online in real time. It turned out to be a huge success. Thanks to participants, the GBBC became a model for online citizen science and led to the development of eBird, with millions of observations submitted every month from nearly every country in the world.

In 2013, we replaced the aging GBBC data-entry system with eBird’s more sophisticated tools. This brought four key benefits: expanding the count area from the U.S. and Canada to every country in the world; increasing scientific value of the observations by enabling users to mark their precise location on a map rather than just using zip code; eliminating the need for double data-entry (you can enter your data just once, either in eBird or the GBBC since they go into the same system); and enabling you to track and edit all your checklists submitted to either project.

At the same time, we also received lots of feedback from participants who missed certain features of the original GBBC system. We took this feedback to heart and launched some new features this year:

  • Explore a Location. In the past, GBBC participants enjoyed friendly competitions between towns to see who could submit the most checklists or tally the most birds. Because we no longer collect data by zip code and the existing mapping technology does not include town boundaries, we can’t display data by towns. However, with our new features under Explore Data, you’ll be able to see which species are being reported in your county, state, or country.
  • Plan a Trip. Find locations with the most checklists and species. Use this tool to help you find the best places to go birding—not only during the GBBC, but any time of year!
  • Photo Gallery. By popular demand, we’ll be showcasing photos right on the home page as participants from around the world send in their best shots for the GBBC photo contest. New streamlined photo tools make it easier than ever for you to view and participate.
  • GBBC Toolkit. Look for the GBBC Toolkit in the right column. We’ve provided how-tos in text and video form, tricky bird ID help, bird lists, buttons for your website, and more resources to enhance your knowledge about the count and why we do it. Be sure to sign up for the GBBC enewsletter to keep in touch with news and results from the count!
  • Birding Apps. Download the free GBBC BirdLog app to submit your observations on iOS or Android devices during the count. Try the free Merlin Bird ID app for iOS devices to help you identify the birds you see!

If you’d like a more detailed run-through about the Great Backyard Bird Count, how it works, and why it’s important, please watch and share this 8-minute video:

So check out the new Great Backyard Bird Count website and be ready to count birds with tens of thousands of others worldwide, February 14–17. We can’t wait to see your bird lists!

(Image: Snowy Owl, first prize overall in the 2013 GBBC photo contest, by Diane McAllister. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint effort by the Cornell Lab and National Audubon Society with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.)


  • Pat McPherson

    I want to participate again in the backyard bird count. I have enjoyed it and learned a lot in the past years, since I have a great variety of birds visiting my feeders this time of year.

  • Richard Harvey

    I have participated for many years but when I try to print the list of birds for my area it will not print. I have printed other things from online and they print. It will be difficult to count without the lists. HELP!!!!!

  • Stephanie Miller

    I’m still not happy nor satisfied with the explanation as to why you are not collecting and reporting data by zip code. You note that people enjoyed seeing the “friendly competition between the number of checklists submitted by town”, yet you still did not see fit to put that into place. You didn’t even bother to update your existing map technology. I’m all for science, but you took away the main reason to attract people to the GBBC in the first place.

    • Hugh

      Hi Stephanie – sorry to have made it harder for you to enjoy the GBBC. We merged the GBBC data collection with eBird in an effort to get the most out of the data (and the conservation value) that is reported during the GBBC. We did weigh this decision very carefully, because participant enjoyment and the value of data are the two most important parts of this project. When we merged with eBird, the location framework is simply not compatible with zip codes (or with postal codes in other parts of the world). eBird records locations at a much finer scale, and this helps us understand bird occurrence at a correspondingly fine scale. With zip codes simply not feasible, we did do our best to offer similar ways of comparing the counts in different places. We’re sorry and we do understand if this makes GBBC unattractive to you—but please understand that good reasons and careful consideration went into this decision so that we could realize the most conservation value possible out of the project.

  • Harry De Vries Beamsville Ont. Canada

    In recent days, we have seen many Robins (50-75 in flock )and last Saturday Feb. 15th, a pair of Cedar Waxwing. Our Feeder has all winter long fed Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red Bellied and Downy Woodpeckers and a variety of Finches.The first Robin we say was on Feb. 10th.

    We live in on escarpment,(near Niagara Falls) which is part of the Carolinian forest.

    H. De Vries.

  • Bill Jebram

    I have one comment. I have given up trying to remember passwords and usernames. I therefore am not

    entering your yearly count. Sorry, but it is just too cumbersome, with so many usernames and passwords

    floating around. I contributed to the lab this year too. You have got to make it easier for people.

    Bill Jebram