You can show local wild birds some love this Valentine’s Day weekend by taking part in the 23rd Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This year’s count begins this Friday, February 14 and continues through Monday, February 17.
From house sparrows to juncos, owls to cardinals, winter birds certainly add definition to the natural landscape here in northeast PA. You have an opportunity to help birds and enhance research on their populations. Volunteers from around the world will count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, and then enter their checklists at www.birdcount.org
You’ve most likely heard that birds are facing a tough time. In a study published by the journal Science last fall, scientists revealed a decline of more than one in four birds in the United States and Canada since 1970—that means 3 billion birds gone!
In addition to these steep declines, Audubon scientists projected a grim future for birds in Survival By Degrees, a report showing nearly two-thirds of North America’s bird species could disappear due to a changing climate. Birds from around the world are facing similar challenges and declines.
Counting birds for science is one simple action that individuals can take to protect birds and the places where they live.
“In order to understand where birds are and how their numbers are changing, we need everybody’s help,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program that collects the GBBC data. “Without this information, scientists will not have enough data to show where birds are declining.” With more than 10,000 species in the world, it means all hands on deck to monitor birds found in backyards and neighborhoods as well as in suburban parks, wild areas, and cities.
Birds are important indicators of the health of our ecosystems. Participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count is one of the easiest and best ways to help scientists understand how the world’s bird life is impacted.
All over the world people are paying more attention to our environment and how it’s changing. So, in just 15 minutes a day, you can be part of a global solution to the crises birds and people are facing.
During the 2019 GBBC, bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted more than 210,000 bird checklists reporting a record 6,850 species–more than half the known bird species in the world. Bird count data become more and more valuable over time because they highlight trends over many years, apart from the normal short-term fluctuations in bird populations.
“At times, we can feel like there’s little we can do on environmental issues,” says Steven Price, president of Birds Canada. “The Great Backyard Bird Count gives all bird enthusiasts a chance to help, as well as a great opportunity to include family and friends of all skill levels in a common conservation effort. Go out, have fun, and take heart that you are helping birds and nature!”
So, whether you choose to watch birds from your kitchen window or while traipsing on the Appalachian Trail, you can do much for our feathered friends. To learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit www.birdcount.org.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Birds Canada and is made possible in part by founding sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.
NATURE NUGGET: According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Commonwealth is home to 480 species of wild birds and wild mammals. There are 414 species of wild birds, including 285 that are regular denizens of the state, while the remaining 129 species are less frequent visitors.
“Porcupine Pat” McKinney is environmental education coordinator for the Schuylkill Conservation District and provides programming for people of all ages with an emphasis on schools, public programming and nature center development. “Porcupine Pat” hails from Marion, Ohio and has a BS with Distinction in Natural Resources – Environmental Interpretation from Ohio State. He is a recipient of the prestigious Sandy Cochran Award for Excellence in Natural Resources Education from the PA Forestry Association, the Schuylkill Pride Award, and the PAEE “Outstanding Environmental Educator Award.”