Family Fun: The Great Backyard Bird Count

Every February, families gather all around the world to participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon will again be sponsoring the GBBC from February 12-15 this year.

If you are new to the GBBC, participants from all over the world count and report the birds that they see in their backyards. You can participate as a family or as individuals. Getting started is as simple as:

· Set up an e-bird account with Cornell Lab of Ornithology at .It is free and takes only a few minutes.

· Watch the birds in your backyard and count the different species. Don’t have a backyard? Just pick a park or area of your choosing. You need to count the birds for at least 15 minutes over the 4 day period of the GBBC. Many people spend more than 15 minutes,

· Enter your data into your e-bird account by March1st

· Check back to the GBBC website to see which country has the most species for 2021

· Print out a GBBC certificate of participation for your child

If you are also new to the wonderful and relaxing world of birding, you will probably want to pick up a good birding guide at the library or bookstore. There are may guides available with some of the best being by Peterson, Sibley or Audubon. I would recommend using a guide with colorful photographs if you have young children new to birding. Many guides are for specific territories so make sure your guide is tailored to your area. You can also check out the free Merlin Bird ID app offered by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The GBBC can also be used as an activity to supplement a homeschool or traditional school curriculum. Here are just a few ideas:

· Art – Photograph or draw the birds observed

· Science- Research the habitat and behavior of the birds observed. Does the species forage on the ground or eat out of the feeder? Is the species a bird that lives in your area year-round or just a winter visitor? Does the species prefer to eat seeds or insects?

· English- Read poetry related to birds such as “To a Waterfowl” by William Cullen Bryant or “Weird-Bird” by Shel Silverstein for something silly. Write an essay or poem about a favorite observed bird.

· Math- Chart or graph the data collected. If you participate for several years, you might notice trends in the types and number of birds observed. For example, my son noticed a marked increase in the number of Chickadees over the years. He realized that the number increased after adjoining fields were no longer farmed and the fields became dominated by goldenrod.

If you decide to participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count this year, you might also want to check out the Project FeederWatch program and other educational resources available from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology ( . Please also check out your local Audubon chapters which offer free public environmental science programs and projects for all ages.

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