With the El Niño weather phenomenon warming Pacific waters to temperatures matching the highest ever recorded, participants in the 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), may be in for a few surprises. The 19th annual GBBC is taking place worldwide February 12 through 15. Information gathered and reported at birdcount.org will help scientists track changes in bird distribution, some of which may be traced to El Niño storms and unusual weather patterns.
Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. Bird watchers from over 100 countries participated in last year’s count, documenting over 5,000 species-- nearly half the possible bird species in the world-- on more than 147,000 bird checklists.
"We've seen huge storms in western North America plus an unusually mild winter, until recently, in much of the Northeast," notes Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham. "And we're seeing birds showing up in unusual places, such as a Great Kiskadee in South Dakota, as well as unseasonal records like Orchard Oriole and Chestnut-sided Warbler in the Northeast. We’re curious to see what other odd sightings might be recorded by volunteers during this year’s count."
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with nature and show some love for birds this Valentine’s Day weekend. Participation is free and easy. GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada. To learn more about how to join the count, download instructions, a slide show, web buttons and other materials, visit www.birdcount.org. While you’re there, get inspired by the winning photos from the 2015 GBBC photo contest and explore local bird activity here.