From the Executive Mansion in Raleigh to communities across the state, North Carolinians are showing wild birds some love this Valentine’s Day weekend by taking part in the 23rd Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). North Carolina First Lady Kristin Cooper is kicking off this year’s count Friday, February 14 by hosting school children to watch birds at the Executive Mansion.
The count continues through Monday, February 17. Volunteers will count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, and then enter their checklists at birdcount.org.
“Counting birds in your own backyard with friends and family is a lot of fun, but it’s also serious science. Collecting these data tells us important things about the health of bird populations, a service that has only become more critical as birds face existential threats from habitat loss and changes to our climate,” said Andrew Hutson, Audubon North Carolina executive director and National Audubon Society vice president.
In a study published by the journal Science last fall, scientists revealed a decline of more than one in four birds in the United States and Canada since 1970—3 billion birds gone. In addition to these steep declines, Audubon scientists projected a grim future for birds in Survival By Degrees, a report showing nearly two-thirds of North America’s bird species could disappear due to climate change. Birds from around the world are facing similar challenges and declines. Counting birds for science is one simple action that individuals can take to protect birds and the places where they live.
“In order to understand where birds are and how their numbers are changing, we need everybody’s help,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program which collects the GBBC data. “Without this information, scientists will not have enough data to show where birds are declining.”
With more than 10,000 species in the world, it means all hands on deck to monitor birds found in backyards and neighborhoods as well as in suburban parks, wild areas, and cities all across North Carolina and the globe.
“Birds are important because they’re excellent indicators of the health of our ecosystems. Participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count is one of the easiest and best ways to help scientists understand how our changing climate may be affecting the world’s birdlife,” says Chad Wilsey, interim Chief Scientist for National Audubon Society.
“All over the world people are paying more attention to our environment and how it’s changing. There’s a lot of bad news out there, but in just 15 minutes you can be part of a global solution to the crises birds and people are facing,” said Wilsey.
During the 2019 GBBC, bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted more than 210,000 bird checklists reporting a record 6,850 species–more than half the known bird species in the world. Bird count data become more and more valuable over time because they highlight trends over many years, apart from the normal short-term fluctuations in bird populations.
“At times, we can feel like there’s little we can do on environmental issues,” says Steven Price, president of Birds Canada. “The Great Backyard Bird Count gives all bird enthusiasts a chance to help, as well as a great opportunity to include family and friends of all skill levels in a common conservation effort. Go out, have fun, and take heart that you are helping birds and nature!”
To learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit birdcount.org.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Birds Canada and is made possible in part by founding sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.