A Global Citizen Science Effort To Monitor Bird Populations

Feb 20, 2018

The Great Backyard Bird Count takes place every February. One of the key differences between this event and the Christmas Bird Count, is that the Great Backyard Bird Count is global and may capture some of those early migrants returning for the Spring.

“The Christmas Count is a sort of early winter snapshot and the GBBC is sort of a late winter snapshot and to a certain extent that can help you understand how well birds are surviving during the winter,” said Marshall Iliff, project leader for eBird at the Cornell lab of Ornithology.

In conjunction with the counts, Iliff says programs like eBird have made it easier to track and share information on global bird populations.  

A Red Winged Blackbird and Chukar perch in the snow on Antelope Island.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

“There’s a lot of stories over the years of how birds have been this early warning system for people, you know with DDT being one of the more famous ones," he said. "Understanding the health of birds really helps us understand how the whole ecosystem is functioning.”

Iliff says that fluctuations in populations can occur for a variety of reasons including climate variability, competition or human intervention. Global as well as local changes can be observed through these counts.

“Something neat we’ve seen with the Eurasian Collared Dove, which originally were everywhere," said Makenna Johnson, biology student and Bridgerland Audobon Society member. "Now we’re seeing this downshift in their population. Now they’re regulating. We’ve gotten that data through bird counts like this.” 

The Great Backyard Bird Count has concluded for 2018, but it's not too late to get involved. 

To learn more about the eBird project visit here. To become involved with bird monitoring and reporting visit the Great Backyard Bird Count here.