The Annual Great Backyard Bird Count Has Begun

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Update 2/17 12:29PM

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Snow started floating down as Pat Leonard walked along a trail by a pond near the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Leonard said it was late in the morning to hear birds, but all around Black-Capped Chickadees were fluttering and chirping. The best times are near dawn and in the early evening as the sun begins to set.

Scott Martin/McCaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornitholog

Adult Black-capped Chickadee. (Photo: Scott Martin/Macaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Leonard leads the annual Backyard Bird Count for the Lab. The Count lasts four days from Friday through Monday, February 14-17, 2020. It is organized by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Leonard said you don’t have to be an expert to get involved. You don’t even have to have a backyard.

“I would suggest going to a local park,” she said. “Or a nature center. Or even come here to the lab and walk the trails.”

She admitted she’s going to count birds from the warmth of her home by watching her bird feeder.  She said that’s ok, too, as long as you spend at least 15 minutes watching for birds.

Scientists combine the data from the Count with other information to get a better picture of what’s happening to the world’s bird populations.

“It’s really good to have people be the eyes and ears and then report what they see and hear,” she explained. “And then all that big data gets crunched and we find out things that we wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

Scientists recently concluded that North America’s bird population has declined by over 30%.*

Leonard said researchers around the world see several possible reasons for the decline.

“The biggest driver of bird’s decline tends to be habitat loss,” she said. “I mean, we humans are building on everything and we’re taking away a lot of the habitat that birds need. And then there is also the fact of climate change.”

More research like the Bird Count will give scientists a better idea of the causes behind population decline.

Bruce Cochrane, Macaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Adult Tufted Titmouse (Photo: Bruce Cochrane, Macaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

It’s been 30 minutes since Leonard came out to the pond, the snow is falling steadily, and it’s getting colder. Still, Leonard said there are lots of birds to see and hear across New York state in the wintery weather.

She named a few, “The Black-Capped Chickadees, the Tufted Titmice, the Cardinals, and the American Goldfinch.”

To participate in this year’s Great Backyard Count go to birdcount.org

Full Disclosure: Cornell University is a WSKG Underwriter.

* This article has been update to correct the source of data that determines the decline of the North American bird population. The Great Backyard Bird Count was not part of that data.