Great (Global) Backyard Bird Count this weekend!

By Team eBird February 12, 2014
Pygmy Woodpecker

Pygmy Woodpecker at Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, on 16 Feb 2013. Photo by Masami Yoshimura.

February 14-17 (Friday to Monday) is the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). To participate, just go birding during this timeframe and make sure to enter your checklists in eBird. The GBBC was one of the first demonstrations that the internet could be used to collect bird checklists and was instrumental in the creation of eBird back in 2002. If you aren’t already excited about this weekend, this story gives some reasons why we think you should be. Working as a team, can we find 50% of the birds in the world on this single weekend?

Join the global team!

Team eBird thinks of the GBBC as the Great Global Bird Count. Let’s see what a global team of birders can do. eBird is now a massive effort to document bird populations around the world over time, but GBBC represents a chance to take a global 4-day snapshot. Everyone who submits a checklist this weekend will be part of the global effort.

  • How many birds can we find? There are 10,324 species in the world and eBird has recorded almost 96% of them. The 2013 GBBC recorded 4258 species (41.2%). Can eBirders and GBBC participants team up in 2014 to find 5162 species—50% of the world’s species in one long weekend? More?
  • How many checklists will be submitted?  Within eBird and the GBBC, the most important measure of success is the checklist. Each checklist represents a snapshot in time and space, and each is valuable. Last year’s effort collected 137,998 checklists in a single weekend. How many will we collect this year?
  • How many countries will collect data? eBird has data from every country in the world, but many countries have only a few submissions. But we know birdwatchers are birding in every part of the world every day. Last year the GBBC recorded data from 110 countries and territories. How many countries will contribute this year?
  • How will your area fare? eBird has powerful new ways to explore location-based information. Just go to Explore Data and click the new “Explore Location” feature. Check out the stats for your country, state, province, or county, and drill down deeper to explore an individual park, refuge, preserve, or other hotspot. Rally your friends to make the best showing you can in the area you live!

Get your friends involved!

To meet these challenges, what we really need is to get more people involved. Do you have a birding friend in another country? Get in touch, and ask her or him to join the Great (Global) Backyard Bird Count, and see if they can add a unique country or find a unique species. Perhaps you’ve gone on a birding trip internationally. This is great excuse to get in touch with your guide and encourage him or her to take part. This is a great way to introduce your friends to eBird and hopefully get them hooked!

Take someone birding!

Take a non-birding friend with you this weekend and show them why you love birding and eBirding so much. We believe strongly in the power of birders to affect wise conservation outcomes and in the power of birds to connect people to the environment around them. If each of us engages someone new in birding each year, we can truly grow a global network of people to better understand, protect, and care about birds and the ecosystem that connects us to them.

The past year in eBird

Thanks to a commitment from all of you who submit data, as well as your excitement to get your friends involved, eBird has been growing at about 40% a year for the last 8 years. This growth has also benefited from the repeated demonstrations of the power of eBird data—from scientific papers to powerful conservation actions. The eBird vision to connect birders, scientists, and the conservation community to better understand and protect birds is being realized every day. Our network of partners has been integral to eBird’s success and in 2013 we saw growth in nearly every country in the world. We are grateful to our dozens of partners who have worked tirelessly to promote, improve, and review data for eBird. This year, we’d like to welcome our new partners to the team and we encourage you to join us in watching the results from these areas during this year’s GBBC:

  • Argentina: The September release of eBird Argentina and the support of Aves Argentinas promises huge increases in data from the Southern Cone.
  • Central America: Since the May release of eBird Centroamérica, growth in all countries in Central America has been at record levels
  • Australia: Newly released Eremaea eBird promises a huge increase in participation down under.
  • India: Incredible participation on last year’s GBBC, and a huge new team of supporters and data quality reviewers energized for this year’s GBBC.

How to follow the GBBC stats this weekend

In order to see how well our global team is doing this weekend, we invite you to check out the newly redesigned GBBC home page. Although tailored for the GBBC, this page has most of the same functionality as eBird. You can submit data here or in your favorite eBird portal—it all goes to the same place. Your My eBird stats will be the same here as they would anywhere in eBird.   The key difference is the Explore Data page. The output here is tailored for the GBBC, so you can see the following:

  • Location pages for GBBC 2014 – This is the most exciting new feature. Enter any location and see the species list, birding activity, recent visits and other information restricted to the count period. Be sure to use eBird to explore this for other periods as well!
  • Hotspot pages for GBBC 2014 – Access hotspot pages from your county or state page. Scroll down the right side to see the list of Top Hotspots and then click the “More hotspots…” link at the bottom. This list can be sorted by most activity or least activity, depending on if you want to find top spots or places where your observations are most needed. Click any hotspot name to see the Hotspot page and that site’s activity during the 2014 GBBC. Make sure your favorite spots make a good showing this coming weekend!
  • Range Maps for GBBC 2014 – See where and how often each species is found around the world. Zoom in and click on the points to see individual records.
  • Top100 for GBBC 2014 – Check out the region-by-region contributions of individuals in terms of both number of checklists and number of species reported.
  • Yard/Patch for GBBC 2014 – If you have registered a yard or patch, you can track your stats and compare to others for the GBBC weekend only.

Any one of these outputs can be posted as a link. Drum up support in your local birding community by posting these statistics on your blog, Facebook page, listserv, or your favorite social media of choice.   If you want to compare results, we encourage you to use to explore February 2013 patterns and compare them to February 2014 patterns. Try this for eBird range maps for any species. For example, Snowy Owl in February 2013 is very different from February 2014; both maps include GBBC data. White-winged Crossbill is another one with stark differences in February 2013 vs. February 2014. Use this same method to explore other species of interest during this year’s count.  Here are some other interesting stats from 2013 to measure against this year’s event:

And make sure to check in with the eBird Live Submissions Map this weekend. This is awesome enough now, but we know it will really get hot this weekend. The hottest times to watch this map are likely to be 4-9pm (Eastern Standard Time or GMT -5) on Sunday and Monday; last year our best hour was 5pm on Sunday night when a whopping 2937 checklists were submitted.   Please enjoy this year’s GBBC and thanks for your role on the global eBird team!

Asian Paradise-Flycatcher in Coimbatore, India, by S. Lakshminarayanan. For this year's GBBC, we hope this and 5161 other species are found!

Asian Paradise-Flycatcher in Coimbatore, India, by S. Lakshminarayanan. For this year’s GBBC, we hope this and 5161 other species are found!