In the largest worldwide bird count ever, bird watchers from 101 countries, including Australia, made history in February in the first global Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).
From 15 to 18 February, 2013, bird watchers from around the world set new records, counting more than 25 million birds on 116,000 checklists in four days. They also recorded 3,138 species, nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species. The data will continue to flow in until today (March 1).
Building on the success of the GBBC in the United States and Canada for the past 15 years, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada opened the count to the world for the first time this year, powered by eBird, a system that enables people to report birds globally in real-time and explore the results online. Bird watchers are invited to keep counting every day of the year here.
‘This is a milestone for citizen science in so many respects – number of species, diversity of countries involved, total participants, and number of individual birds recorded,’ says Cornell Lab of Ornithology Director, Dr John Fitzpatrick. ‘We hope this is just the start of something far larger, engaging the whole world in creating a detailed annual snapshot of how all our planet’s birds are faring as the years go by.”
‘People who care about birds can change the world,’ says Audubon Chief Scientist, Gary Langham. ‘That’s why this year’s record-setting global participation is so exciting. Technology has made it possible for people everywhere to unite around a shared love of birds and a commitment to protecting them.’
Other key preliminary findings include:
- Top 5 Most Reported Species (reported on highest number of checklists): Northern Cardinal; Dark-eyed Junco; Mourning Dove; Downy Woodpecker; House Finch
- Top 5 Most Common Birds (most individuals reported): Snow Goose; Canada Goose; Red-winged Blackbird; European Starling; American Coot
- Finch Invasion: A massive number of northern finch species moved into the U.S. including the Common Redpoll, reported in a record 36 states. Scientists believe these periodic movements are related to natural fluctuations in crops of conifer cones and other seeds in Canada.
- Hurricane Sandy: The weather system that caused Sandy’s landfall also blew some European birds to North America, and evidence of this is still showing up in GBBC results. The colorful, crested Northern Lapwing was reported in Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts during the GBBC.
- GBBC First: A Red-flanked Bluetail has wintered at Queens Park, Vancouver, and was also reported for the GBBC’s first record ever. This British Columbia bird has been drawing birdwatchers from all over the U.S. and Canada hoping to see this rarity. This little thrush is one of the only birds in the world with a striking blue tail and is native to Asia: the other GBBC report this year was from Japan.
For more information, visit the birdcount site.
Photo: Vincent van Zalinge