Backyard Bird Count Goes Global

Amateur birders record an astounding number of species and individuals in the first ever worldwide avian stock taking.

Feb 22, 2013
Bob Grant

Each February for the past 15 years, birders in Canada and the UnitedStates have had the opportunity to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, cataloging avian species and counting abundances observed on their own patch of terra firma. But this year, the 4-day event was expanded to include anyone with a functioning internet connection, and the preliminary data is setting new records. Birders from Australia to Zimbabwe have counted 25 million birds and more than 3,100 species, with reports still pouring in.

A Northern Cardinal, one of the most reported birds counted in the first global Great Backyard Bird CountWIKIMEDIA, DOMINIC SHERONY“This is a milestone for citizen science in so many respects—number of species, diversity of countries involved, total participants, and number of individual birds recorded,” said John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in a statement. “We hope this is just the start of something far larger, engaging the whole world in creating a detailed annual snapshot of how all our planet’s birds are faring as the years go by.”

The Cornell Lab along with Audubon and Bird Studies Canada oversee the annual count and reported that they’ve received 116,000 checklists from bird counters using the eBird system so far. Birders in more than 100 countries across the globe participated in the count, helping to piece together patterns such as the presence of some European bird species in the U.S., a lingering result of Hurricane Sandy’s forceful winds. Data will continue to be analyzed until March 1.