Citizen science opportunity is for the birds!

Young and old can serve as citizen scientists by helping with the Great Backyard Bird Count February 14-17, 2014.

The Great Backyard Bird Count will take place Friday, Feb. 14, through Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, around the globe. The Great Backyard Bird Count provides a great opportunity for young and old to participate in a huge world-wide science project while connecting with nature, discovering birds, and serving as “citizen scientists.” Participating is easy. Simply watch birds for at least 15 minutes at the location of your choice on one or more of the count days. Estimate the number of birds you see for each species you can identify and report your data online.

The success of the Great Backyard Bird Count depends on participants from every community helping to count birds across the United States and Canada. It’s fun, easy, raises awareness of birds, and provides an important record of where the birds are – a record that scientists can use in the future to track how birds are faring as their environments change. The longer this data is collected, the more meaningful they become in helping scientists investigate far-reaching questions such as: how does weather influence bird populations? What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas? How does the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years? How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?

To report all the kinds and numbers of birds you see during the annual count, you’ll need to create an account at www.birdcount.org.  It’s easy! You’ll be guided with simple step by step directions and a number of online resources are available to help you with bird identification. You will also get a checklist of birds you might see in your area during February. In the boxes, you’ll enter your estimate for the number of each species you saw while you were counting. You will need to submit a new list for each time you count, whether it’s on the same day, a different day, at the same place, or at a new location. For each time you count, you’ll select your location on a map, answer a few questions, enter your tallies, and then submit your data to share your sightings with others around the world.

The global capacity for the count will be powered by eBird, an online checklist program for all of the world’s 10,240 bird species. As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or from anywhere in the world. Participants will be able to view what others are seeing on interactive maps, keep their own records, and have their tallies recorded for perpetuity.

Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see for a photo contest through March 1. A selection of images can be viewed in the online photo gallery.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada and sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.

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