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Count Birds In Your Backyard Or Community This Winter For Science – And Fun!


December 1, 2015

The birds you watch in your backyard this winter can be part of scientific data bases that count on you counting them.

The longest running such count in the world is the 116th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC), and you can still get in on one of Washington’s 40-some official counts scheduled between Dec. 14, 2015 and Jan. 5, 2016.

The CBC provides critical data on bird population trend, and tens of thousands of participants throughout the Americas know that it’s also a lot of fun. The count has become a family tradition among generations, with veteran and novice birdwatchers armed with binoculars, bird guides, and checklists, often out before dawn and until dusk, on an annual mission to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature during the holiday season.

If you’re just learning bird identification, joining up with others who are more knowledgeable is one of the best ways to accelerate your education. If you’re a pro at distinguishing Cassin’s finches from house finches or sharp-shinned hawks from Cooper’s hawks, join a count to help others.

All of the official counts are within designated areas, and long-running ones have traditional spots within those areas to look for birds. But many counts also include what you might tally the day of the count at your own backyard bird feeders.

You can find counts by community and date, and learn who to contact for data compilation, at the Washington Ornithological Society website at . More information, including lists of bird species counted in the past, is at

Even easier for backyard birders is the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), and the 18th annual will be conducted February 12-15, 2016.

GBBC participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report their counts, they fill out an online checklist at

As this count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or anywhere in the United States and Canada. They can also see how this year's numbers compare with those from previous years. Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see for the GBBC’s on-line photo gallery.

Both of these bird counts are good ways to learn more about the birds you see in your backyard or neighborhood or local wildlife area. They’re also a great way to add to our collective knowledge about birds.


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