North Iowa Outdoors: The Great Backyard Bird Count is On

As our environment changes, one question always remains…How is our changing environment affecting our wildlife, especially our birds? Unfortunately, there aren’t enough professional scientists to study all the various bird species and observe how their populations are changing. But, we do have citizen scientists, and you can be one by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count!

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a citizen science project designed to monitor winter bird populations throughout North America each year. It’s sponsored by the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Wild Birds Unlimited and will be held this year from February 12th-15th.

Winnebago County Naturalist Lisa Ralls stated that the count process is simple.

The website is birdcount.org/participate. You don’t have to be an expert birder; if you are unsure of a particular bird’s identification, you don’t have to include it in the count. However there is an app called Merlin Bird ID app that you can use to help you identify what’s in the backyard or in front of you as you count.

You can make as many observations as you’d like over the 4-day period, and in as many different locations as you’d like. If you’re concerned about double counting, Ralls stated that all you need to do is wait till you have the most of a certain species of bird.

So, you can get as involved, and put in as much time, as you want. You then submit your results online, where you can review them along with the thousands of other results people have submitted.

Over the years, the GBBC has allowed ordinary citizens to gather information for professional scientists to analyze. Scientists peruse through the enormous amount of information collected each year to discover how bird populations and ranges are changing and why they’re changing, often analyzing how climate change is affecting bird populations. Recognizing those changes can help scientists determine the best ways to conserve species that are declining or how best to manage species whose ranges are shifting.

If you would like to participate in the GBBC, and would like more information, check out the GBBC web site at birdcount.org/participate. You do have to create an account to submit your information, but it costs nothing to participate. The time you spend will not only be fun, it will also help scientists learn more about our birds, how their populations are changing, and how we can best protect them in the future.

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