Great Backyard Bird Count – February 17 to 20

Like most naturalists I’ve got a couple of backyard feeders and enjoy keeping a rough tally of the species that come and go. It’s always interesting when something a little unusual turns up, but the regulars make for entertaining viewing. Bushtits come through at least two times a week following some sort of urban feeding route which includes our suet feeder. A Bewick’s Wren that drops in frequently enough that I think that it must be nesting somewhere in our neighbourhood. And occasionally we’ll get flocks of Pine Siskins and a few American Goldfinch stopping in as well.

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), a common bird in our backyard. Definitely countable!

The cool thing is that if you have a feeder or were thinking of putting one up, maybe do it before this weekend and participate in the 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, coming up February 17-20. Bird watchers across the U.S. and Canada are getting ready to tally millions of birds in the annual count coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.

So how does it work? Participants count birds at any location they wish for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their tallies at Anyone can participate in the free event, and no registration is required. Even if you only get a couple of species, that’s still important data and can be used to track trends in bird populations across North America.

In 2011, participants submitted more than 92,000 checklists with more than 11 million bird observations. These data capture a picture of how bird populations are changing across the continent year after year – a feat that would be impossible without the help of tens of thousands of participants.

The Great Backyard Bird Count provides an easy way for the public to contribute to our knowledge of birds and the state of the environment as a whole. This huge database is an important annual snap-shot of bird populations across the continent.

Bird Studies Canada scientist Richard Cannings.

To learn more about how to join the count, get bird ID tips, downloadable instructions, a how-to video, past results, and more visit The count also includes a photo contest and a prize drawing for participants who enter at least one bird checklist online.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.