Wanted: Observers for the Great Backyard Bird Count
This weekend, you’re invited to look outside. Find a bird. Write down what you saw. Then find another bird.
That’s research, whether it feels that way or not. The annual Great Backyard Bird Count is counting on more than 60,000 volunteers across North America to make a tally of all the birds they see near their homes.
A census is just as valuable for biology as it is for human studies.
There are other bird counts at other times of year, especially at Christmas. But this weekend’s event “what you might call an entry-level bird count,” said Pat Leonard of the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, one of the organizing groups.
Rookie birders are welcome.
“People can watch all four days (Friday through Monday) or just one, for a minimum of 15 minutes but most people watch longer.
“They can do it in the backyard, park or nature centre, whatever they want.”
Observers go online (www.birdcount.ca) to report the numbers and species they see. There are expert checkers at the organization in case someone reports an influx of Caribbean birds in the snow of Ottawa.
“We look at the data to see what kinds of trends emerge this year,” Leonard said.
For instance, it’s a big year for snowy owls, which usually stay much farther north. And the mild weather may cause some species to stay farther north. Ottawa had robins well into January at least, and open water has encouraged some ducks to stay.
The bird count is a valuable tool in learning which bird species are stable or increasing in numbers and which are in decline.
“We don’t want people to be intimidated by this. You don’t have to be an uber-birder,” Leonard said. If you’re not sure what kind of sparrow is out back (because there are dozens of sparrow types, all small and brown) volunteers are encouraged to skip the unknown species.
Source: Ottawa citizen