Thursday, February 01, 2007

Great Backyard Bird Count Coming Soon

It is time once again for the Great Backyard Bird Count. This year's count period is February 16-19, or the weekend of President's Day. This count aims to determine the mid-winter distribution of birds across the United States and Canada.

Here are some specific questions that the reports help to answer:

* How will this winter's snow and cold temperatures influence bird populations?

* Where are winter finches and other “irruptive” species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?

* How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?

* How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?

* What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?

* Are any birds undergoing worrisome declines that point to the need for conservation attention?

To participate, set aside at least 15 minutes sometime during the weekend of February 16-19. Count all the birds that you see during that period, and report the results on the GBBC website. Many report birds coming to their feeders, but the "backyard" in the title is not meant to be restrictive. If, like me, you live downtown in an urban area, you can also participate by counting birds in a park or natural area. The organizers of the count want to gather information on as many species as possible, many of which are not found in a typical backyard.

Last year, birders in DC reported 55 species and 2,766 individuals within the District. Can we improve on those this year?

Update: Several other bloggers have written about the coming count. See the links at Birdchaser and bootstrap analysis for more commentary on the subject.