BC Citizen Scientists asked to include birds in their neighborhoods as part of the global census

A hummingbird hovers at a backyard bird feeder in Burnaby, BC (Brendan Carroll/Submitted - photo credit)

A hummingbird hovers at a backyard bird feeder in Burnaby, BC (Brendan Carroll/Submitted – photo credit)

The Great Backyard Bird Count begins today, which means bird lovers and casual watchers from around the world will be keeping a close eye on our feathered friends.

The event is now in its 28th year and runs through Monday.

The purpose of the Great Backyard Bird Count is for people to count as many birds as possible at any point over four days in 15 minutes, and then use a smartphone app to report their numbers to the scientists involved in the project.

The recorded observations contribute to a better understanding of global bird populations at a time when many species are disappearing.

“The reason it’s done around the world every February is to help get a good inventory of bird populations before they migrate to other parts of the world,” said Andrew Holland of the Nature Conservancy of Canada to host Michelle Elliot on CBCs BC today.

“Birds have declined sharply in relation to their populations around the world,” Holland added. “And recently there was a report in North America showing that bird populations have declined by 2.9 billion over a 50-year period due to habitat loss, climate change and lack of food sources.”

Michelle Beks/Submitted

Michelle Beks/Submitted

Smartphone apps help with counting

The Great Backyard Bird Count was established in the United States in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Birds Canada joined the project in 2009, and the initiative went international in 2013 when eBird, an online database, went live.

On the Great Backyard Bird Count website ( two free apps are recommended for data entry – Merlin Bird ID and eBird Mobile. Participants can also enter their information using a desktop or laptop computer.

People who count don’t actually need to see a bird to include it in their numbers. It is enough to hear a bird call. The Merlin Bird ID app matches users to their region and includes a field guide with photos and sounds.

John Eastman/Submitted

John Eastman/Submitted

protect bird habitat

Connel Bradwell, who lives in Victoria and works as a senior instructor for the Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society, says habitat loss is the main reason for the decline in bird populations worldwide.

He said communities should consider how development decisions might affect birds.

“We’ve got to look at … areas that they’re using that are really important [and] Make sure they are properly protected,” he said BC today. “And not just habitat, but making sure they have corridors to move through so they don’t just have separate habitats.”

Bradwell also says people can make sure their homes and yards are bird-friendly. This could include measures to reduce window strikes and adding native plant species to green spaces.

“Another great thing is … keeping dogs on leashes in parks because a lot of these migratory birds come through,” he said.

“You often see dogs chasing birds in really important areas around the lower mainland – Boundary Bay, Richmond, [and] here on the island, places like Island View Park. People are letting their dogs loose, chasing these birds, and they need a rest. That’s why they’re here, they’re going on a big journey.”


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