The Great-Backyard-Bird-Count Group

Photo © Michael

The Great Backyard Bird Count comes to us this year on February 16-19th. And, as you may expect, there are likely to be some very interesting visitors. Is your yard ready to attract the abundance and diversity of bird species that may show up this migration season? Show off your wonderful habitat by joining our Great-Backyard-Bird-Count group and put your bird count data on your map. Read on to learn more about the GBBC program and the Habitat Network group you can join to show off your GBBC bird counts and find others’ who also participate in this annual tradition.

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Photo © Cindy Bryant

The Great Backyard Bird Count was first launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. It was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and display nearly real-time results. Since its inception, more than 100,000 people around the world have joined the annual four-day count in February to monitor and record the distribution and abundance of their local and migrating birds.


Photo © Rick Dunlap

People of all ages and walks of life are invited to participate by simply tallying the numbers and kinds of birds you see for at least 15 minutes, on one or more, of the four days.

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Photo © Lab of Ornithology

Join the Group!

This private group allows Habitat Network members participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count to discuss and explore each others GBBC data entries. Members can compare yards, habitats, and gardening practices with the diversity of bird species that get reported at each site. If you haven’t visited your Habitat Map in a while, but are planning to participate in the GBBC, this is a great way to get back into the project, meet others with the same interests, and show off the birds you find.

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Photo © Lab of Ornithology

Group members will also be able to view how their individual site’s conservation efforts measure up to the rest of the group; and, you will see the proportion of habitat you provide in your yard compared to the rest of your land use.

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Photo © Lab of Ornithology

First, Map your Site. (if you haven’t already done so)

Make sure you have an updated map that includes all your habitat improvements like feeders and nest boxes, snags, trees, and shrubs, and any garden areas. Also, fill in as many characteristics as possible to submit the most complete data that you can. For more information on completing your map, see the article: How to Submit a Complete Map.

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Photo © Lab of Ornithology

Next, add your site to the group.

Visit the new Group tab and search for the GBBCG group in the ‘Find A Group’ sidebar button or follow this link to the GBBC Group Page. From the group’s home page you can review the Membership Conditions, see the group’s statistics, and compare the breakdown of habitat provided by current members.

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Photo © Lab of Ornithology

To join, click the ‘Join Group’ button in the top right corner. Then select which of your sites you want to join the group with. You may add to the group any number of habitat maps that you will be counting birds at for the GBBC. In the box provided, please state why your site meets the membership conditions, then hit Send Request. You will get an email confirmation once your site is confirmed and added to the group. Once approved, you will be able to compare your map to other sites in the group, explore other members’ habitat maps, and use the forum to comment, share ideas, and ask questions.

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Photo © Lab of Ornithology

If you haven’t done so already, you will need to associate your habitat map location with your eBird counts. Follow the instructions in the article Adding Bird Sightings to Your Habitat Map to add your site location to the eBird database.

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Photo © Lab of Ornithology

Now, when you count birds for the GBBC from your habitat map and enter them on eBird the birds from your count will appear on your map, letting others in the group know which birds appreciate the effort you’ve put into creating habitat. If you are hooked, and decide to keep reporting your yard birds to eBird year-round, those counts will also be shown in the Habitat Network.

Then Plan Your Count. You can pick any 15 minute increment of time on any of the days during the count to head outside and observe the birds you see. Keep track of species and number along with the duration of your count (15 minutes is the minimum).

Teddy Llovet

Photo © Teddy Llovet

Be sure to submit your data for the GBBC through eBird. Read this pdf for instructions on counting and reporting the birds in your backyard. Also, check out the Get Started page for other help including Bird ID tools and Photo Contest information.

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Photo © Lab of Ornithology

No need for separate accounts. Sign in with the same username and password that you use for the Habitat Network and all citizen science programs at the Lab of Ornithology. You can also create a new account for the GBBC if you don’t have one, then use that account to get involved with the Habitat Network and any of the other Cornell-hosted citizen science programs.

Into the wind

Photo © Karen Vittorio

The current climatic changes and dramatic weather patterns may disrupt regular food supplies and other habitat resources, making it difficult for birds and other wildlife to find food or shelter in these affected areas. That means the work you do to support wildlife in your yard might be more important than ever.

The Groups tool is available for anyone to use to organize and manage conservation efforts, discuss and collaborate on ideas or projects, or monitor and assess habitat improvements around your area. For more information on the Groups Tool see the following articles:

Introduction to the Groups Tool
Creating a New Group
How to Join and Add a Map to a Group

For a breakdown and explanation of the statistics available on the group’s home page see: Wildlife Habitat Category in the Groups Data Visualization

We look forward to seeing you add your site to the GBBC Group and being able to check out all the interesting birds you see