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Great Backyard Bird Count

50,000 Great Backyard Bird Count Checklists Show Bird Whereabouts Across North America. Now, Participants Encouraged to eBird Year Round

Ithaca, NY & New York, NY, April 2, 2003 - Bird enthusiasts across North America submitted almost 50,000 checklists totalling more than four million birds during the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 14 through 17, 2003. The event, one of the largest citizen-science projects in the world, documented a regional decline of at least one bird species that may be the result of West Nile virus in those regions.The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), developed and maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, with sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited, asked people across the US and Canada to watch birds in their backyard, local park, or other locale, and to submit their sightings to http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc The online aspect of the count means birders quickly see how their results complement the continent-wide picture. Now, Cornell and Audubon offer these participants the ability to record sightings throughout the year with the launch of eBird.This year`s GBBC documented the whereabouts of 512 species, one of which showed declines in some areas compared to previous years. American Crows were reported in alarmingly fewer numbers in Illinois and Ohio, where West Nile virus has had a strong presence. This decrease may or may not be related to West Nile, but the situation is certainly something we need to pay attention to, says John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Crows seem to be particularly vulnerable to the virus.Other species showed increases this year. GBBC participants in the eastern U.S. counted more Dark-eyed Juncos than they had since 2000, perhaps because a massive snowstorm hit the eastern seaboard during the weekend of the count, driving birds to feeders in high numbers. That same snowstorm apparently held early migrants like Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, and American Woodcock farther south, compared to previous years.In the West, Mountain BlueBirds were reported farther south than last year, and all of the rosy finches (Black, Gray-crowned, Brown-capped) were documented farther north. In previous years, GBBC maps of Eurasian Collared-Dove, a species introduced in the Bahamas before reaching Florida, showed the species spreading quickly north-westward. This year, the maps show no change, suggesting a slow down in the rate at which the bird`s range is spreading. The GBBC was developed to help monitor the abundance and distribution of birds in late winter, helping researchers spot alarming trends before situations become critical. As we see rapid changes in our environment, like the spread of West Nile virus and shifts in species` ranges, bird monitoring projects such as the Great Backyard Bird Count become increasingly important, says Frank Gill, Audubon`s vice president for science. We hope that the tens of thousands of people who participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count will begin submitting their observations to our latest online monitoring tool, eBird. eBird, http://www.birdsource.org/eBird lets birders submit their sightings over the Internet to a vast database anytime, anywhere. They can create their own pull-down menu of their favourite birding locales by plotting their location on a map. They can also choose from the list of birding hot spots already created for each state and province. Their reports are pooled for access in any number of ways. They can look at their own reports for a given location, or on at certain date. They can sort by species. They can even view sightings made by other birders while their own data are made accessible to others. eBird is a dream come true, says Fitzpatrick. There`s nothing else out there that lets you input your bird sightings and manage them the way you want to, while at the same time making them available to scientists, conservationists, educators-anyone with an Internet connection. I enter my own reports daily - I`m hooked. For years, my bird records have been piling up on shelves, in accessible to anyone but myself. With eBird, those sightings become a powerful tool for science and conservation, says Gill. He adds that birders can even enter their records dating back years, even decades. It`s a great feeling to get those data off the shelf and into the hands, so to speak, of people that can use them. Birders are invited to try eBird right away, and to view results of the Great Backyard Bird Count. Top ten lists of all sorts are available at the web site, as are maps of every species reported. Results from previous years are also available. Next year`s Great Backyard Bird Count will take place February 13 - 16, 2004. For more information on the Great Backyard Bird Count and eBird, write the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 or the National Audubon Society Science Office, 545 Almshouse Road, Ivyland, PA, 18974. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution interpreting and conserving the earth`s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centres and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

4th July 2014