Great Backyard Bird Count Produced a “Gold Mine” of Information
Annual event collected massive amounts of data about birds
April 4, 2011—When tens of thousands of people watch birds and report what they see online, they create a snapshot showing the whereabouts of many hundreds of bird species across the United States and Canada. This annual gold mine of information about birds comes from participants in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), a joint project of the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.
|Dark-eyed Junco by GBBC participant Jerry Acton, New York|
This year, an estimated 60,000 bird watchers of all ages took part in the free, four-day event held February 18-21. Participants identified 596 species and filed 11.4 million individual bird observations. Their reports provide useful information to scientists tracking changes in the numbers and movements of birds from year to year, just as winter is about to melt into spring.
Two new species never reported to the count before included a Brown Shrike in McKinleyville, California, and a Common Chaffinch recorded in Placentia, Newfoundland and Labrador—both species well out of their normal ranges. In Alaska, a GBBC participant observed a Brambling visiting her feeder—the only one reported for all of North America.
GBBC participants also reported a surprising increase in the number of Evening Grosbeaks this year—the highest number of observations ever for this species during the count and an increase that isn't simply attributable to greater GBBC participation. A closer look finds this upturn especially marked in the northwestern U.S. and in Canada. This uptick is also supported by data entered so far this season from Project FeederWatch, a winter-long citizen-science project from the Cornell Lab and Bird Studies Canada. FeederWatch data have shown sharp declines in Evening Grosbeaks over the past two decades for unknown reasons. Future counts may reveal if this year’s increase in GBBC grosbeak reports is a one-time fluctuation or part of a long-term trend.
|Female Evening Grosbeak by GBBC participant Carrie, Maine.|
For the third year in a row, checklists submitted to the Great Backyard Bird Count topped 92,000. Participants set new bird checklist records in 11 states and in 7 out of 13 Canadian provinces and territories, resulting in a new overall checklist record for Canada.
To find out more about these and other trends from the 2011 count, visit www.birdcount.org and click on “Highlights of 2011 GBBC.”
The Great Backyard Bird Count is sponsored in part by Wild Birds Unlimited.
The next GBBC is February 17-20, 2012.
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Top 10 birds reported on the most checklists in the 2011 GBBC:
1) Northern Cardinal
2) Mourning Dove
3) Dark-eyed Junco
4) Downy Woodpecker
5) American Goldfinch
6) Blue Jay
7) American Crow
8) Black-capped Chickadee
9) House Finch
10) Tufted Titmouse
Media Note: Visit the “Explore the Results” pages on the GBBC web site at www.birdcount.org to find the list of Top 10 birds reported in your state, province, or city.
• Pat Leonard, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, (607) 254-2137, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Delta Willis, Audubon, (212) 979-3197, email@example.com
• Kerrie Wilcox, Bird Studies Canada, (888) 448-2473, firstname.lastname@example.org