Birds are everywhere, in virtually every habitat, at all times of the year. To engage with various species of birds and nature itself, all you have to do is pay attention. The annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is coming up on February 17th through the 20th. This annual event is a way to fuel your curiosity about birds and engage with nature with other birders and nature-loving people across the globe.
What is the Great Backyard Bird Count?
GBBC is a global event that gets people excited about birding in the winter by creating a winter snapshot of birds. For four days, people unite to observe, learn about, count, and celebrate birds! In 2022, the outcome was once again incredible! Approximately 384,541 GBBC participants counted 7,099 species of birds in 192 countries. This year, we hope you join us. GBBC is a great opportunity to share your knowledge about your local environment with the world.
How to Get Involved?
The best part about GBBC and birding, in general, is that getting involved is simple. Because birds are everywhere, this event is highly adaptive. You can contribute to the bird count by viewing birds in your backyard. To maximize the experience and your observations, we recommend you count for at least 15 minutes. If you’d like, you could count for much longer, and contribute more observations.
You can keep track of your observations any way you’d like. You can start submitting data at midnight on the first day of the count, and the data entry will remain open, for the four days, until March 1st. There are three primary ways to submit your observations to the GBBC. The first is through BirdCount.org, the second is through eBird.org, and finally, through the Merlin Bird ID app.
Entering your data through BirdCount.org is easy! Simply visit the website and look for the tab that says “Submit Observations.”
Another option is to submit data through eBird.org, which provides more flexibility, allowing you to submit data through the eBird mobile app, available for iOS and Android devices, and on web pages for desktop and laptop users.
As one of the largest biodiversity databases, eBird is a popular option for submitting data. However, eBird does not allow users under the age of 13 to create accounts. Many educators and even parents choose to make group accounts that allow young learners to participate in bird-counting fun!
Need Help Identifying Birds?
A key part of participating in the GBBC is being able to identify the birds you see. Don’t worry if you aren’t an expert. We’ve got tools to help!
Merlin Bird ID app
The Merlin Bird ID app is a great resource to use to identify birds and to prepare for the Great Backyard Bird Count. If at any point during the four days of GBBC you recognize a bird that you cannot identify, Merlin ID can help! By answering five simple questions about where and when you made your observation, the size, colors, and behavior of the unidentified bird, Merlin ID will come up with a list of possible species.
Make your own field guide!
Get to know your neighborhood bird by use Merlin Bird ID to create a list of local birds. In Merlin, use the Explore Birds feature and filter by likely birds and you’ll get a list of common birds in your area. From this list of likely birds, you can pick out a few to get to know before the big event by creating your own local field guide. Challenge each student to become an expert on one of your likely birds by drawing it and researching interesting facts using information from the Merlin Bird ID app and allaboutbird.org.
“Cooped up Kids” Activity 5
To learn more about how bird identification and practice your Merlin skills, check out Activity 5 of the “Cooped Up Kids” series. This resource will engage students from grades K-8 in independent learning and teach them the four keys to bird ID. The activity features quests that the entire family can participate in and has helpful information for all about how to use the Merlin Bird ID app.
***For all three submission platforms, it is important to remember to make a new entry for each new day, each different location, and/or each bird-counting session on the same day. All eBird entries and Merlin Bird IDs in the four-day period will count toward the bird count.
Come Join Us!
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a wonderful opportunity for families and friends to have fun while enjoying nature. If you are considering participating, take someone birding with you! Not only is birding an opportunity to connect with family and friends, it’s also an opportunity to connect with the great web that is the scientific community. Participating in the bird count is conducting citizen science, where families, educators, and students contribute to scientific research.