How You Can Help Bird Conservation Efforts in Just 15 Minutes this Weekend!

The 26th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is coming soon—February 16-19! Maybe (like me) you’ve thought about doing it in the past but felt a little intimidated: You don’t really consider yourself a birder. Or you don’t have multiple days to commit to birding. Maybe you don’t even have a backyard.

screech owl

Eastern Screech Owl in our backyard

It turns out, to participate in this worldwide citizen science project, none of the above concerns are issues. To take part, you:

  • Only need to count birds for a minimum of 15 minutes on one day between February 18-21.
  • Can be anywhere—in a kayak, on a beach in the Caribbean, at a ski lodge in Colorado, at home sipping hot chocolate on your back porch.
  • Don’t have to be a birder. You just have to try to identify the birds. (Bird apps help tremendously.) Identifying a bird is weirdly rewarding and gets a little addictive!

The GBBC is a joint effort between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and Birds Canada. Although February seems like a strange time to count birds, they want to get a snapshot of numbers before birds start one of their annual migrations. With the information all of us provide through the GBBC, scientists can track increases and decreases in species. They can detect problems and work to remedy them or sound the alarm if needed.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron on a foggy Florida morning

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s GBBC website,, has all the info you’ll need to take part, but here are the steps in a nutshell:

  1. Start an eBird account and/or download the mobile eBird app (both free). For help identifying birds, you may also want to download Cornell’s Merlin app. If possible, download the eBird app a day or so before your intended birding session so you can get familiar with it.
  2. Go outside on February 18, 19, 20, or 21.
  3. Open the eBird app and click “Start Checklist.”
  4. Record the number and species of birds you spot for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Answer the prompts.
  6. Hit “Submit.”

Way to go! You’ve taken part in the Great Backyard Bird Count! Now sit back and enjoy the warm feeling of being part of a project of worldwide importance.

Phainopepla near our campsite in Arizona, a few miles north of the Mexican border

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