Chickadee Eats a Sunflower Seeds

A black-capped chickadee sits on top of a sunflower seed feeder. The chickadee is a common species seen in Idaho Falls backyards during the winter months.

All you need is an internet connection, a bird identification guide and a little time and you can join people around the world in the 22nd Great Backyard Bird Count.

“I’ll be doing it,” said Kit Struthers, a longtime bird watcher from Idaho Falls. “Because of the weather, I’ll just be looking out my window at my bird feeders.”

The bird count will take place today through Monday. Volunteers from around the world are invited to count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more of those days, then enter their checklists online.

“I’ve been doing it since 2011, maybe longer,” Struthers said. “One count I went out to Camas Wildlife Refuge. That was fun.”

Former Idaho Falls mayor and avid bird watcher Linda Milam says she has participated in past bird counts.

“I think there probably will be quite a few people here. This Audubon group here has a couple hundred maybe more members and a chunk of them will probably do (the bird count),” Milam said. “You don’t have to be an Audubon member, anybody who would like to play along can. A lot of people have feeders in their yards.”

If you’re new to the Great Backyard Bird Count, participating is a three-step process: Create a free account, count and identify birds for at least 15 minutes for one or all four days and enter your results on the bird count website. More details can be found at gbbc.birdcount.org/get-started.

Milam said these bird counts help scientists detect trends and population patterns over time.

“It’s not that individual count that matters so much, but how over time things change,” she said. “It gives you a better idea of survival rates and population rates of the varieties of species that might be seen in any given area.”

A tool for smartphone or tablet users are identification apps that make naming a specific bird a snap. Apps can help you narrow things down quickly by size, color, song and habits. Links to apps can be found on the Great Backyard Bird Count website at gbbc.birdcount.org/birding-apps.

Milam said she won’t be using any phone apps with her bird watching.

“I spent my whole life tied to phones. I have no interest in continuing to be tied to one,” she said. “I’m not a big phone person.”

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and added funding from Wild Birds Unlimited. The groups use the data gathered by people from around the world to contribute to a global database of bird populations.

“Participants in the Great Backyard Bird Count help scientists understand how things like climate change are impacting bird populations so we can better inform our conservation efforts,” said Gary Langham, Ph.D., vice president and chief scientist for the National Audubon Society on the bird count’s website.

“During the 2018 count, bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted more than 180,000 bird checklists reporting a record 6,456 species–more than half the known bird species in the world,” according to a Great Backyard Bird Count news release.

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