While the pandemic has put a stop to many kinds of fun, participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend can offer people of all ages a chance to enjoy nature and help North America’s wild birds, while still staying safe.
The Audubon Society, Cornell University and Birds Canada are seeking participants to do a little bird watching February 12-15, as part of the Great Backyard Bird Count. The annual event is meant to monitor wild bird populations with help from volunteers around the world.
To participate, spend at least 15 minutes a day bird watching for each of the four days of the count. Anyone can join in, whether it’s outside in nature or watching from a window. Participants can observe alone, or make it a family project. The organizers encourage people to be safe and observe social distancing, and wear a mask if bird watching around others.
Even people who can’t tell a cardinal from a crow can participate by using the free Merlin Bird ID app, available for smartphones. The app is a digital field guide with photos, sounds and other tools for identifying bird species. After identifying a bird, a few simple steps in the Merlin Bird ID app will confirm the sighting and share the information with the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Other tools are also available to help bird watchers track what feathered friends are in their neighborhood. More experienced birders who are comfortable identifying bird species can use the eBird mobile app to report their sightings during the count, and upload their own photos and audio recordings.
People who’d rather write down a bird list and upload it later, or who don’t have access to a smartphone, can also upload the list through the eBird app on a laptop or desktop computer.
While backyard bird watching might be easiest, people can participate no matter where they are – on a hike, at a park or elsewhere.
For more information on the Great Backyard Bird Count, links to the apps and details on the organizations that sponsor it, visit https://www.birdcount.org.