2009 Great Backyard Bird Count Sets a New Record

March 3, 2009
Hoary RedpollHoary Redpoll, by 2009 counter Harry Mueller of Manitoba.
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The Great Backyard Bird Count has been getting greater (in terms of participation) ever since it started more than a decade ago. When online checklist submissions closed on Sunday we were at a new all-time record of 93,402 checklists, with some paper checklists still to be counted. That’s an increase of about 8,000 checklists, or almost 10 percent, over last year – and it raises the possibility that we might hit the 100,000 mark next year. Great work everyone!

Lab of Ornithology and Audubon staff are still hard at work compiling an official results summary, but you can check out preliminary results on the website right now. Be sure to look over the Top Ten lists to see how your favorite species or your home town, state, or province did. Some things I noticed:

We got checklists from every state and every province (let’s hear it for Northwest Territories and their 95 Willow Ptarmigans!).  Eastern birds, from cardinals to Blue Jays and Tufted Titmice, crept into the Top Ten more often than western birds. Still, none of those species showed anything like the numbers of Snow Geese, with more than 1.3 million counted, or Common Grackle, which was just 508 birds shy of a million.

Northeastern states submitted the most checklists, with Pennsylvania edging out New York (by 52) for the top spot at 5,509. California showed up at number 4 to represent the western U.S.

It’s a different story for the top ten list of most species: California and Texas tied for No. 1. At 336 these states were head and shoulders above everyone else, even sunny Florida at 279. British Columbia put Canada on this top ten list at 195.

Finally, a congratulations to Mentor, Ohio, for taking top honors in localities with the most checklists. The town of 50,000 scored more than half again as many checklists as runner-up cities like Charlotte, Tallahassee, Cincinnati, Richmond, and Atlanta.

Explore more top ten lists here, look up state and province tallies, use our map tool to study results for individual species over any of the years in our records, or read stories submitted by participants. And don’t forget to check out entries in our photo contest and watch videos uploaded from the count.

We had a great time at this year’s GBBC, and we hope you did too. Based on a survey many of you took, it seems like this was the first year counting for 40 percent of participants, and 98 percent plan to do it again next year. We hope you’ll spread the word and vault us into six-digit participation in 2010. Thanks.


  • It’s so wonderful to hear that the program is growing by leaps and bounds!

    I think I can speak for most everyone in saying a superb job done by the Cornell Lab in compiling all the data.

  • Paul Cherry

    I am an engineer and my office is in Florida. For the last month a have a Cardinal pecking at and flying into my window from morning to night every day every minute of every day. Any suggestion to help the poor guy.

  • Hugh

    Hi Paul. Sounds like your cardinal is having one of the classic problems of springtime – too excited about summer to think straight. We have an explanation and a couple of suggestions about what to do on our Frequently Asked Questions page: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/faq/master_folder/windows/document_view

    Thanks for reading, and good luck!

  • Maia

    Speaking of counting and listing birds, does anybody use bird listing software? If so which ones?

  • Hugh

    Hi Maia – I know the one I’d recommend, ours: eBird http://ebird.org It’s a free, nifty online program that keeps track of where you’ve been birding and what you’ve seen, lets you see maps of observations, and e-mails your list summaries to you.

    Your data helps scientists and conservationists, too, because it all flows into a huge database of observations around the continent (as well as in much of Latin America and several other countries). Data like this recently helped a group of conservation organizations put together the first-ever State of the Birds report, which came out yesterday (http://stateofthebirds.org ).

    You can query the eBird database of everyone’s observations at any time, and see your results as maps, bar charts, or occurrence tables. Give it a try – you’ll be helping us as much as helping yourself stay organized!

  • That chikadee with red hat is so cute!!!

2009 Great Backyard Bird Count Sets a New Record