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article imageGreat Backyard Bird Count Begins Today

By Martin Laine     Feb 12, 2010 in Environment
Tens of thousands of citizen scientists will spend part of this weekend counting birds in parks, wildlife refuges, and in their own backyards. Last year, 93,600 checklists were sent in, providing the largest single “snapshot” of bird populations ever.
And Canada will officially be included for the first time this year, as Bird Studies Canada joins the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in sponsoring the four-day event.
“Taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to get outside with family and friends, have fun, and help birds – all at the same time,” said Audubon Education Vice President, Judy Braus. “Even if you can only identify a few species you can provide important information that enables scientists to learn more about how the environment is changing and how that affects our conservation priorities.”
The event is yet another example of the growing interest in “citizen science,” now occurring in many areas, where enthusiastic amateurs are able to collect valuable data for use by researchers.
“The GBBC is a perfect first step towards the sort of intensive monitoring needed to discover how birds are responding to environmental change,” said Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at Cornell. “There is only one way – citizen science – to gather data on private lands where people live. GBBC has enormous potential both as an early warning system and in capturing and engaging people in more intensive sampling of birds across the landscape.”
Last year’s count, for example, revealed a southern movement of Pine Siskins that had not been previously noted.
Participants counted 279,469 Pine Siskins on 18,528 checklists, way up from nearly 40,000 Pine Siskins counted just four years before. Researchers concluded that failure of seed crops forced the birds to move south in search of food.
Progress of the bird count can be followed on the website www.birdsouce.org. The site also offers help in identifying species, as well as information on registering and how to submit data. The event is free, and there are drawings for prizes.
More about Citizen science, Bird count, National audubon society
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