Global bird count relies on work of volunteers
By Alexandra Gundy
The Great Backyard Bird Count is asking nature lovers all over the globe to pull out their binoculars and get counting. The project, which runs from Feb. 14-17, will help researchers understand the relationship between birds and other environmental changes.
“We can’t send scientists everywhere, so it’s great to use regular people to get a really large coverage of the whole country,” said Kerrie Wilcox, the Canadian Coordinator for the Great Backyard Bird Count who is based in Port Rowan, Ont., southwest of Toronto.
“It’s just not possible for them to get such a huge coverage without participation,” she said.
The 17th annual bird count is expected to be the biggest yet. The event went global for the first time last year, with more than 34 million sightings from 111 countries, in all seven continents. Volunteers are asked to spend at least 15 minutes over fours days logging their sightings.
With bird species declining in some areas and migrating to others, it’s near impossible for biologists to track changes without the help of volunteers, organizers told Humber News.
The information gathered by participants can help researchers understand concerning patterns.
Data collected by volunteers may help explain reasons for rapid surges in population, and the effect that those surges and changes can have on the ecosystem.
“Irruption species, like the common redpoll, are very closely linked with cone and seed crops up north. So years where seed crops are low, they move south and they descend on cedars,” said Wilcox.
The bird watch is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and Bird studies Canada. Participants can submit their findings to www.birdcount.org.