Set for Feb. 15-18, the Great Backyard Bird Count is a free joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Organizers say it's an opportunity for families, students and bird lovers to observe nature in backyards, schoolyards and local parks while making a contribution to conservation efforts.
“Participants count birds and report their sightings online; it doesn’t get any easier,” Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said.
in 2012, observers reported 17.4 million birds of 600 species in the United States and Canada. These records represent 104,000 checklists.
Participants are asked to count birds for at least 15 minutes on at least one day of the event and reporting their sightings online at www.birdsource.org/gbbc. Additional online resources include tips to help identify birds, as well as a photo gallery and special materials for educators.
“The project goes beyond artificial feeding stations and includes planted and naturally-occurring vegetation that attracts and protects birds,” said Game Commission biologist Doug Gross.
Those submitting reports also are encouraged to contribute bird sightings by registering at Pennsylvania's eBird website managed by the Game Commission. The GBBC information is combined with eBird data but is concentrated on private lands.
To learn more, visit the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on “Wildlife” in the menu bar at the top of the page, then choose “Birding and Bird Conservation,” as well as “Pennsylvania eBird Website.”
The data collected helps the Game Commission and other wildlife researchers assess the importance of locations to birds and bird population trends. These efforts help conservation organizations to assess the locations of birds in late winter and how their numbers and distribution compare with previous years.
“Last year, there was a big invasion of snowy owls,” Gross said. “This winter seems to feature conifer birds, such as pine siskin, red-breasted nuthatch and crossbills that have travelled to Pennsylvania due to natural crop failures to the north. Each winter provides its own surprises.”
In addition to entering their tallies, participants also may submit digital images for the GBBC photo contest. Many will be featured in the popular online gallery.