Rufous-capped warbler

Ready, set, count: Great Backyard Bird Count turns 25

For a quarter of a century the annual Great Backyard Bird Count has been a bright spot for nature lovers. The 25th edition of the event is coming up Feb. 18-21.

Everyone is invited to join the count, so their birds can become part of a massive database used by scientists to track changes in bird populations over time. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of OrnithologyNational Audubon Society and Birds Canada.

“Birds tell us how our environment and climate are changing,” said Chad Wilsey, chief scientist at the National Audubon Society. “By joining the Great Backyard Bird Count, participants can contribute valuable data that help scientists better understand our surroundings. Together we can use this information to better protect birds and the places they need.”

Each participant counts birds for any length of time (but for at least 15 minutes) and reports what they see online. It’s easy for people of all skill levels.

“Sometimes people feel intimidated about jumping into the world of birds if they have no previous experience,” said Patrick Nadeau, president of Birds Canada. “The Great Backyard Bird Count is a wonderful way to get your feet wet, feel the warmth of the community and start to realize the wonders in your own neighborhood. The tools and resources are free. And you are helping birds when you get involved.”

Participants enter a new checklist for each new location or time of day during the four-day count. There are also tools and information on the GBBC website to help new and returning birders. A webinar about how to participate in the GBBC will be held Feb. 16 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m; registration is free.

A record number of participants joined the 2021 count. An estimated 300,000 people submitted checklists reporting 6,436 species.

“The GBBC is about the birds, but it’s also about the people,” said David Bonter, the Lab of Ornithology’s co-director at the Center for Engagement in Science and Nature. “It’s clear from scientific studies that getting outdoors or connecting with nature – even watching or listening to birds from home – does people a lot of good.”

Many GBBC participants discover a fascination with birds and have found it a welcome distraction from pandemic worries.
“Like many others I found solace in the natural world, especially in birds,” said participant Anna Anders, of Maryland. “I now had time to observe and learn more about them. I began going birding, put out more feeders and a bird bath, took birding classes, and started my life list… I can’t wait to do the GBBC… and continue my birding journey.”

All participants are urged to follow COVID protocols for their area, avoid gathering in large groups and wear masks if unable to remain at least six feet apart from others.

To learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit The GBBC is made possible in part by founding sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.