This weekend, thousands of people in the United States and Canada participated in the eighth annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Volunteers count the birds in their own backyards and report their findings to the GBBC website.
Approximately one-third of the United States, 730 million acres of land, is held in trust by federal agencies. These lands are home to the most significant populations of wild birds. Volunteers are encouraged to visit local land trusts and report on their findings in these areas.
"A 'backyard' can be anywhere you happen to be, a schoolyard, a local park, the balcony of a high rise apartment, a wildlife refuge," said John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The numbers and species of birds in North America are in constant flux. The GBBC allow researchers to quickly have a comprehensive view of the birds present in the United States and Canada.
GBBC researchers aim to answer three major questions this year: How will this winter's snow and cold temperatures influence bird populations? Where are the winter finches and other irruptive species? Will late winter movements of many songbird and waterfowl species be as far north as they were last year?
The data found will be combined with results from the Christmas Bird Count and Project FeederWatch. The CBC, another project of the National Audubon Society, has been taking place in late December and early January for over a hundred years. Project FeederWatch, which encourages participants to count the birds and record the different species at their bird feeders, is an ongoing event. More than one million participants have contributed to the project since 1987.
About 2.1 million acres of land are converted to residential use every year in the U.S. alone. "Participating in projects such as the Great Backyard Bird Count gives people a first-hand view of how important bird-friendly backyards are to many bird species," said Frank Gill, the National Audubon Society's Director of Science.
The GBBC celebrates and helps distribute more information about different species of birds. The website teaches about bird watching, how to count birds and how to identify different species of birds.
As of Sunday evening, more than thirteen thousand people reported over one-and-a-half million birds. These birds were from almost 500 different species. The event continues until midnight tonight. Automatic updates detailing every state, location and species are available online. Results from the GBBC for the past seven years are also available.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a non-profit organization, researches, educates about and conserves North American birds. The National Audubon Society has similar interests in advocating for and sustaining birdlife. The GBBC is sponsored by Wild Birds International, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Cornell Information Technologies.