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British Backyard Count Sets the Stage for Ours, Next Week

Long-tailed Tit
Long-tailed Tit by Roeselien Raimond via Birdshare.

Is everyone ready for the Great Backyard Bird Count next weekend (Feb 12-15)? It’s your annual chance to help scientists by watching the birds in your backyard for as little as 15 minutes, then reporting your observations to us.

Birders in the United Kingdom just finished their own version of the count, called the Big Garden Birdwatch. They had great participation: 585,000 birdwatchers reported 8.5 million birds and 73 species. And the results are already proving enlightening: Long-tailed Tits were reported almost twice as commonly this year as last year, and scientists think that recent milder winters may be behind the apparent increase. On the flip side, over the 30 years the count has been going on, the data have revealed major declines in the isles’ native House Sparrow and European Starling populations—trends that are very hard to detect without the help of thousands of birders.

Over here in the New World, you can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count from anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. (This year the website will even include a French-language option.) Details on how to participate are here, along with summaries of past counts, and photos submitted to our annual Great Backyard Bird Count photo contest.

Last year was a record-breaking year for participants: more than 94,000 checklists were submitted, you counted 620 species and more than 11 million individual birds, and your sightings helped us gauge the size of the biggest Pine Siskin irruption in years.

As you can see from those numbers, we have plenty of birds to count over here on our side of the pond. But there’s one place the British have us beaten—585,000 participants? For us Yanks to catch up, each one of us who participated last year would need to persuade five friends to watch this year. Sounds like a great project for this weekend! Anyone want to borrow a pair of binoculars?

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada.

The Cornell Lab

All About Birds
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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library