The 19th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, one of the largest citizen-science projects in the world, will take place next weekend.
Birders of all levels of experience are urged to count the number of birds they see in a 15-minute period at a location of their choosing. It can be their backyards, a neighborhood park, a nearby state or national park, or anywhere they choose.
The information gathered and reported online will help scientists track changes in bird distribution and assess the impact El Nino and unusual weather patterns have on birds.
The count is a combined project between the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
“It is important to participate because the more eyes and ears we have out there, the better picture we can get of where wintering birds are located, which species are in a given area and how their population is doing,” said Krystal Kyer, executive director of the Tahoma Audubon Society.
Kyer described citizen-science projects such as the count as a form of crowd-sourcing.
“There are a finite number of scientists and funding for research, but anybody can learn to identify and count birds,” she said. “The more people who participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, the better understanding we have of what is happening with bird populations, and, over time, we can begin to see trends and patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed.”
“More and more, scientists are relying on observations from the public to help them gather data at a scale they could never achieve before,” Jon McCracken, national program manager at Bird Studies Canada, said in a prepared statment.“The count is a great way to get your feet wet. You can count birds for as little as 15 minutes on one day or watch for many hours each day at multiple locations — you choose your level of involvement.”
During the 2015 count, participants in more than 100 countries submitted a record 147,265 bird checklists. In all, 5,090 species were identified, nearly half the bird species in the world.
In Washington, 231 species were counted. In Pierce County, people counted 120 species, while in Thurston County they counted 127 species. There were 147 species spotted by counters in King County and 101 species in Kitsap County.
Among the most common species counted statewide in 2015 were American robin (80,000 birds), snow goose (7,500 birds), mallard duck (4,800 birds), Canada goose (4,100 birds) and American wigeon (4,000 birds).
When: Participants can conduct their count from Friday through Feb. 15.
Tahoma Audubon events: The local chapter will hold two sessions on Feb. 14, 9:30-11 a.m. and 2:30-4 p.m. Designed for children and their families, participants will count birds at the Adriana Hess Audubon Center in University Place. For more details and to register, go to tahomaaudubon.org.
Information: Learn how to take part at gbbc.birdcount.org.