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17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count begins this weekend

Birds can be counted anywhere, including a golf course like this heron was hunting on.
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

This Friday, February 14, 2014, will be the first of four days of the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Since it’s beginning in 1998, the Great Backyard Bird Count has expanded to include variations of the event worldwide. Last year, more reports from Europe, Asia and Africa came in than ever before. Most of the submissions came from North America, especially the contiguous 48 states. It is hoped that expanding the count as much as possible will give a better idea of the state of birds worldwide. It can tell scientists whether climate change is affecting migration or whether or not an invasive species has expanded or about rare species breakouts.

Unlike the better known Christmas Bird Count, the Great Backyard Bird Count is not tightly organized and structured. People can count in any area and in any way they like. They can either submit their information to the Great Backyard Bird Count site at or use eBird to enter their counts. It’s OK if you can’t identify every single species of birds on your counts. You don’t have to hike or walk long distances, if you don’t want. Counting birds that show up to feeders is acceptable. It is suggested that each time you count for, at least, 15 minutes each time. If you want to “fill in the gaps” in the San Diego area, try birding in inner city parks and yards or visiting lesser populated areas of the desert and mountains.

The reason why this time of year is picked for this annual count is that this is the least likely time that birds will be migrating. About a month later, birds most migratory birds will be on the move and some will have begun breeding in the south. Many birds migrated through San Diego in late fall and earlier in the winter, but there are plenty of birds staying in town for the long term. The Great Backyard Bird Count runs from February 14-17, though data can be entered for that time period after that date.

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