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The Great Backyard Bird Count


My apologies as this one has got away from me, and it begins today!  But it lasts for 3 days, so there is still plenty of time, and it is something incredibly fun and interesting for both kids and adults.  Basically, it’s like stargazing… but it’s beautiful birds in your own backyard!

Here’s how it works:  Count birds for 15 minutes or more between February 13 and 16, and report your sightings at Birdcount.  That’s pretty much all there is to it!  You can count them anywhere (your backyard, at a local park or wildlife refuge, wherever you like), you don’t have to know the name of every bird, you certainly don’t have to be an ornithologist – whatever data you can give them will help.

“Anyone who can identify even a few species can contribute to the body of knowledge that is used to inform conservation efforts to protect birds and biodiversity,” says Audubon Education Vice-President, Judy Braus.

Where Does Your Data Go?

The data help researchers understand bird population trends across the continent, which is critical for conservation efforts.  These projects also help scientists understand the changes in migration patterns and numbers as our climate changes.

As we all know, funding for great causes is in short supply these days.  So here we can help provide our continent with some very useful information, while getting the family outside!  

Steps To Taking Data

1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, February 13–16, 2009. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like – one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.

2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out your regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you’re likely to see in your area in February. You could take note of the highest number or each species you see on this checklist.

3. When you’re finished, enter your results at this Birdsource page. You’ll see a button marked “Enter Your Checklists!” on the website home page beginning February 13, 2009. It will remain active until the deadline for data submission on March 1, 2009. 

You can also enter a photo contest if you like.


  • The Birdsource page has tips for identifying similar-looking species.
  • Cornell also has a great website for bird watchers.  It includes a Bird Search, How To ID Birds, and much more.
  • If you don’t have one at home, I recommend finding a bird guide for your region – they’re not very expensive and usually you can find one at a used book store.  And they’re certainly fun to have around the house.

Have fun!

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7 comments to The Great Backyard Bird Count

  • Thanks for the reminder. We’ll be out this weekend and so I’ll need to do this Friday.

  • Christine


    I love these posts, I especcially love this backyard bird watch one. I normally sit on the grass and watch the birds fly around while my son runs around enjoying the great outdoors, the thing is, I always forget that the things I wish to participate in arn’t always in my country.

    Why can’t Australia have a backyard bird count? I think it would be intresting to see how our birds are distributed. I’ll see what I can do about getting one. Fingers crossed.

    Keep up the great work!

    Chrissie & Co.

  • becky

    my daughter and i just made a date to get this fun project done! i might try practicing alone today. thank you for all the helpful info and the suggestion to get it done! i like the idea of sitting in the same spot on all three days and that i don’t have to go anywhere to participate…my own backyard is valuable enough. we are fortunate to have a pretty welcoming yard for birds and other critters. i’m excited about making an official count.

  • This is a great idea! Thanks! If we can get the oldest to focus for that long it will be a great lesson in nature AND counting!

  • What an interesting idea! I’ve always wished I knew more about different types of birds, at the very least how to identify them. Thanks for the links for helping identify the birds. I’ll read through them, though I can’t help out with this bird count. Don’t have a backyard… ;)

  • Wonderful, I’m so glad you all enjoyed this!

    Melanthia, You’re welcome! I see you’re in Seattle – I’ve added your blog to our Northwest Resources page.

    Christine, Wonderful – go get em! I wish it were worldwide – in fact, it should be, as birds don’t see borders! Thanks for your kind words.

    becky, You’re welcome – it’s a great thing to think about, that our backyards are a valuable portion of the world. I hope you and your daughter enjoyed this!

    Willo, Perfect – there are always multiple lessons, aren’t there?! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Stephanie, LOL. You know if you wanted to, you could go out anywhere on campus and do this. : ) But starting with a bird book is a great idea. They’re quite fun!

  • Unfortunately I don’t have a campus right now either… and I haven’t seen birds in a while, as we’ve had 48 hours of snow. All the birds are hiding out. Just as I should be.

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