Larry CollinsWILD ABOUT BIRDSFree Press Birding Columnist

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January 31, 2013
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COLLINS: Counting birds way better than counting sheep

The 2013 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will take place Friday, Feb. 15, through Monday, Feb. 18. Please join us for the 16th annual count!The GBBC is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are.Beginning in 2013, GBBC checklists will be accepted from anywhere in the world!Everyone is welcome - from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It's free, fun, and easy - and it helps the birds.Estimate the number of individual birds of each species you saw during your count period (only count the species you are sure of). Record these tallies on a checklist. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day for each new location or even from the same location. Enter these numbers on the GBBC website ( or eBird. You'll see a button marked "Enter Your Checklists!" on the GBBC website home page beginning at 7 a.m. Eastern time (U.S.) on the first day of the count.Each participant must set up a free GBBC account to submit their checklists.Beginning in 2013, the GBBC will be integrated with eBird, a worldwide bird data collection program used for keeping track of your personal bird records and bird lists. The change means you must create a free GBBC account in order to enter your bird checklists, even if you have participated in the GBBC before. You'll only need to set up an account this once to participate in all future GBBC events. This change also means you will be able to access all your GBBC observations and eBird observations under a single account. If you're already registered with eBird, you can use the same login information. As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or from anywhere in the world.Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see for the GBBC photo contest. A selection of images is posted in the online photo gallery.

Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.Scientists use the GBBC information, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to get the "big picture" about what is happening to bird populations. The longer these data are collected, the more meaningful they become in helping scientists investigate far-reaching questions, like these:• How will the weather 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?The above information was taken from the GBBC website. For highlights of past results, visit the website.If you have questions or need more information, contact the Wild Birds Unlimited store at 970-242-2843.The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.Local bird expert Larry Collins owns Wild Birds Unlimited, 2454 Hwy. 6&50, which caters to folks who want the best backyard birdfeeding experience possible. Email your birdfeeding and birding questions to and he'll answer them in his bi-weekly Q&A column in the Free Press.

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The Post Independent Updated Jan 31, 2013 11:44AM Published Jan 31, 2013 11:43AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.