As our environment changes, one question always remains…How is our changing environment affecting our wildlife, especially our birds? Unfortunately, there aren’t enough professional scientists to study all the various bird species and observe how their populations are changing. But, we do have citizen scientists, and you can be one by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a citizen science project designed to monitor winter bird populations throughout North America each year. It is sponsored by the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Wild Birds Unlimited and will be held this year from February 16th-19th. It is an easy and fun way for everyone to get involved with actual scientific research!

Over the years, the GBBC has allowed ordinary citizens to gather enormous amounts of information for professional scientists to analyze. Scientists are discovering how bird populations and ranges are changing, possibly because of climate change, possibly because of other reasons. Recognizing those changes can help scientists determine the best ways to conserve species that are declining or how best to manage species whose ranges are shifting.

Fortunately, participating in the GBBC is easy to do! All you need to do is observe an area for a minimum of 15 minutes and record which birds you see. And you don’t have to be an expert birder; if you are unsure of a particular bird’s identification, you don’t have to include it in the count. You can make as many observations as you’d like over the four-day period, and in as many different locations as you’d like. So, you can get as involved, and put in as much time, as you want! You then submit your results online, where you can review them along with the thousands of other results people have submitted.

If you would like to participate in the GBBC, and would like more information, check out the GBBC web site at birdcount.org. Then, grab a chair and sit back to enjoy the relaxation of bird-watching. The time you spend will not only be fun, it will also help scientists learn more about our birds, how their populations are changing, and how we can best protect them in the future.

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