Great Backyard Bird Count takes flight

Diane McAllister
This photo of a snowy owl won the 2013 Great Backyard Bird Count photo contest.

From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, bird watchers from more than 100 countries are expected to participate in the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 14-17.

Anyone can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings. The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations on a scale that would be otherwise impossible. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada.

In North America, Great Backyard Bird Count participants will add their data to help define the magnitude of a dramatic irruption of snowy owls. Bird watchers will also be on the lookout for the invasive Eurasian collared dove to see if it has expanded its range again. Bird Count observations may help show whether numbers of American crows will continue to rebound after being hit hard by the West Nile virus, and whether more insect-eating species are showing up in new areas, possibly due to changing climate.

Learn more about how to join the count, and view the winning photos from the 2013 GBBC photo contest.