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Need Weekend Plans? Just Look Up

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From February 12-15, hundreds of thousands of citizen scientists around the globe will be tracking, reporting, and celebrating all things feathered during the Great Backyard Bird Count. To create a real-time snapshot of bird populations, all you have to do is count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they’d like) for one or more days during the GBBC. 

Your family will enter their observations at, where the data will “migrate” over to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Researchers will use the info to learn how bird populations are doing and how we can help them and their habitats. We “flew” over to Natural Lands to chat with Debbie Beers, Director of Volunteer Engagement about how your family can get involved in this awesome, screen-free event! 

What tools do families need to participate? 

The Great Backyard Bird Count is accessible and open to everyone. Birds are everywhere, and everyone can look for them!  Binoculars are handy and encouraged for observing birds, but not required. Participants simply need a willingness to spend at least 15 minutes looking or listening for birds, identifying species, and counting the number of individual birds.  

For the 4-day event, participants will need paper and pen to keep track of sightings.  Data is then entered on a computer laptop, desktop, or mobile device. Check with local libraries about borrowing binoculars if you don’t have them, and access to a computer with internet, as needed.


How long have you been participating? 

Natural Lands preserves have hosted Great Backyard Bird Counts since the first one, 24 years ago. Birders flock to these landscapes to observe, learn, and enjoy the birds of our region. 

Why is the GBBC so important? 

The Great Backyard Bird Count provides a real-time snapshot of winter bird activity, February 12-15, 2021. The data collected through the project augments eBird, the world’s largest wildlife database, reflecting millions of bird records from around the globe. Comparing and analyzing data allows important insights into bird trends, population changes, shifting ranges, habitat correlations, and more. The participation of thousands of citizen-scientists is crucial – ornithologists can’t be everywhere!  Last year, more than 260,000 people participated in the GBBC, counting 27 million individual birds, documenting 6,942 bird species from 194 countries. The world is truly a big backyard!

Do you have any additional resources to teach kids about backyard birding? 

The Great Backyard Bird Count website is an excellent resource for ways to get started with counting birds, and how to participate in the initiative. All About Birds provides great information about how to identify bird species.

Where are your favorite spots to go for birds?

Birds will be found in any place that provides the resources they need to survive – food, water, and shelter. Natural Lands preserves and public gardens are great places to look for birds. I like to look for birds in my own backyard, as well as local spots including Ridley Creek State Park, and John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia.

Photos courtesy of Natural Lands

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