Courtesy of Cornell University

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the founder of the now 21-year-old Great Backyard Bird Count event, which attracted 13,000 participants last year.

February 15, 2018

Birders Around the Globe Aided by Cornell App During Backyard Bird Count

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Eyes will soon turn to the sky for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, a global bird census initially launched by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The GBBC will be taking place for the 21st time starting this Friday, giving amateur enthusiasts across the world an opportunity to add their input to the professional study of birds and contribute to the study of bird migration patterns, according to Forbes.

Ithaca’s Sapsucker Woods is home to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a global leader in the appreciation and conservation of birds and the launcher of GBBC. The lab is also home to the eBird program project team headed by Marshall Iliff grad.

“The GBBC was the first bird counting effort to make use of the internet for data collection back in 1999. Its early successes spawned eBird, a year-round ongoing count for birdwatchers worldwide to enter birds they see anytime, anywhere,” Iliff told The Sun in an email.

According to Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, eBird is a mobile app and online checklist that allows users to keep track of the birds they encounter while also reporting their findings to a central database. The lab, along with other educators and conservationists across the world, uses this data to better aim their research at understanding bird populations and migration patterns.

“For the birdwatcher, eBird is the best way to track your personal sightings,” Iliff said.

This type of widespread data collection has been particularly useful in the study of how climate change is currently affecting the migration patterns of certain birds.

“Many species are declining and struggling to adapt to a changing world,” Iliff explained. “With birdwatchers around the world contributing to eBird and the GBBC, we can monitor these changes and understand how birds are responding and hopefully make plans to better protect them and ensure their survival into the future.”

The first GBBC in 1998 attracted around 13,000 participants from the United States and Canada, as reported by Forbes. Nineteen years later, in February 2017, 200,000 bird watchers from over 100 countries reported more than half of the world’s known species.

“Almost everyone involved is a data contributor … we’ll all be out locally reporting birds from our own backyards,” Iliff said.