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What Is the Great Backyard Bird Count? And How Can You Join the Fun?

Tufted Titmouse, shrub, beauty bush, Great Backyard Bird Count, Happier Place

For the love of birds and getting happier by being outdoors, don’t miss this global event: the 24th annual Great Backyard Bird Count.

This weekend (February 12 – 15, 2021 / Friday – Monday), people all around the globe will share in the joy of noticing, watching, counting, and celebrating birds! We encourage you to join us in the fun. In our excitement about this global event that is all about birds and not a virus, we’re even hosting a giveaway.

What is the Great Backyard Bird Count?

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a 4-day event in February organized by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and Birds Canada. During this time frame, anyone, anywhere is invited to spend as much time in nature as they’d like watching and counting the birds they see and report their findings. The collected observations from around the world give scientists important information about global bird populations before one of their seasonal migrations.

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) also introduces the joy of bird-watching and nature-appreciation to more people every year.
In 2020, an estimated 268,674 people in 194 countries counted over 27 million birds, identifying 6,942 species of birds.

GBBC official website: Birdcount.org

How to Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count

Participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count is easy, fun, happier-making – and can be done anywhere birds can be seen. It does not have to be in a backyard. All you have to do is watch birds for at least 15 minutes, on at least one of the 4 days (2/12 – 2/15 , Friday – Monday) and submit your count via eBird.

If you’ve previously participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) or are pretty confident in being able to identify all the birds you see, you can go straight to using the eBird Mobile app or submit your bird list on the eBird website.

To help identify birds you see, we recommend the Merlin Bird ID app for your smartphone. This is a Cornell Lab app, which works directly with their bird counting app eBird. If you identify a bird with Merlin Bird ID, you’ll be automatically asked if you want to add it to your eBird count. Learn more and get the free Merlin Bird ID app.

Happier Tip: Install and try out the apps before you want to start your count, so you’re confident and ready to start counting when it counts.

Count Birds and Win-Win-Win!

First win: we believe that birding makes people happier. Why? We plan on posting a detailed article about why birding makes you happier soon. Until then: birding makes you feel connected to nature, which is established to make us happier. Birding with others makes you feel connected to people, which is also nice. And while you’re focused on all the intriguing, light-weight, and speedy things birds do, you probably forgot all your worries for a little while.

Secondly, you’ll be participating in a global online citizen-science project (aka community science), which means you’ll be doing something meaningful and helpful for science, for birds, and for our planet – while feeling connected to people everywhere. That makes you a winner.

Third: we are giving away actual prizes. While we’re in no way associated with the organizers of the Great Backyard Bird Count, we think it’s such a great idea that we’d like to motivate people to participate by offering prizes. Also we’re curious about which birds you see in your neck of the woods in February.

  • How to enter our bird count giveaway: leave a comment in the reply section below this article with a list of the birds you saw – and where and when you watched for birds during the 24th Great Backyard Bird Count weekend (Feb 12 – 15). Deadline: Wednesday (Feb 17) evening. Winners have to be at least 18 years old. The more lists you add (from different days), the more entries you get.
  • Winners + Prizes: Winners and prizes will be announced here and on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram Story) on Friday, Feb 19.
House finches on wooden swing bird feeder, brown bird with red chest and orange chest, great backyard bird count

Share Your Birdwatching Photos and Win Some More

Upload your favorite bird photos to eBirds so they can become part of the Macaulay Library, the scientific archive of natural history. You can’t add photos to eBird via the mobile app – just via the eBird website. Here are instructions on how to upload photos to the eBird / Macaulay Library database.

You can submit “Joy of Birdwatching” photos of people connecting to nature through birds HERE to win Bird Academy prizes and for a chance to have your photo featured on the Great Backyard Bird Count, Audubon Society, Birds Canada, or Cornell Lab of Ornithology websites and publications.

Let’s Inspire Each Other

Have you ever been part of the Great Backyard Bird Count – or any other group wildlife counting events? What was your experience like? Had you heard about the GBBC before?
Will you be counting this weekend? Where will you go to watch and count birds – at home or somewhere else?

Please leave a comment below – inspired by these questions or whatever you’d like to share…
And don’t forget to add your bird sighting list to enter our giveaway!


Female Red Cardinal, Ultimate Guide to theGreat Backyard Bird Count and how to participate and win. #HappierPlace
Tufted Titmouse representing the Ultimate Guide to the Great Backyard Bird Count and how to participate and win. What is it? When does it take place? How can you join the fun?

All photos in this post by Luci Westphal.

What Is the Great Backyard Bird Count? And How Can You Join the Fun?What Is the Great Backyard Bird Count? And How Can You Join the Fun?

19 thoughts on “What Is the Great Backyard Bird Count? And How Can You Join the Fun?

  1. Sorry for the delay. This is my unofficial over the weekend count but I still thought I would add it as I like to learn about what other people are seeing and I know you do too plus I have a few high numbers that are fun to comment on.
    Cardinal 4
    Blue Jay 2
    Tufted Titmouse 1
    And now for the exciting numbers:
    Sandhill crane 30 ish
    Black Bellied Whistling Duck 40 +

    The sandhill cranes are making their grand exit so we catch glimpses of them and hear their bugling above as they leave the prairie nearby.
    The whistling ducks hang out at a stormwater pond all day and then fly to the prairie at night, you can almost set your clock by it 6:30 pm. 40 is a really conservative number as I have visited their daytime hangout and there are hundreds.
    Happy Birding!

    1. Thank you for adding your list, Hollie! At first it seems you see the same birds we get down here – but then you pull out those whopping sandhill crane and whistling duck numbers. Must be amazing to hear and see all of them fly over. Just looked up the black-bellied whistling duck. They’re so striking looking. And their striped ducklings might just be the cutest around. Do you know if they stick around for breeding or will they head back somewhere else for that? Would love to see them – and hear them whistle, of course.
      xx Luci

  2. At the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington, Vermont on 2/15, we saw:
    1 crow
    2 blue jays
    3 chickadees

    and we heard one woodpecker but could not catch a glimpse. Meager spottings but we were only out for a little.

    1. Of course, I LOVE the idea that you were birding at the Birds of Vermont Museum. Sorry for you and O that sightings were “meager” – but it might match with how many more birds than usual are further south this year. Crazy winter. Better utilized for sledding than standing around watching for birds! We should do counts again in spring!

      Thank you for sharing your list, Kate. You’ve now been entered into our giveaway!
      xx Luci

  3. My bird count list from Sunday 4/14 was just around our front porch and backyard again. But a few different bird neighbors showed up this time.
    1 Eurasian collard-dove
    2 mourning doves
    1 red-bellied woodpecker
    3 blue-crowned parakeets
    4 blue jays
    4 fish crows
    2 tufted titmice
    2 mockingbirds
    2 American robins
    9 house sparrows
    4 boat-tailed tackles
    1 yellow-rumped warbler

  4. A couple hours in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn this afternoon.
    22 Canada Geese
    1 Red-bellied woodpecker
    2 Downy woodpecker
    6 Blue jay
    4 American Crow
    11 Black-capped chickadee
    12 Tufted titmouse
    2 Red-breasted nuthatch
    6 White-breasted nuthatch
    3 European Starling
    15 House Sparrow
    2 House finch
    2 Fox sparrow
    4 Dark-eyed junco
    1 White-throated sparrow
    10 Northern cardinal
    1 Accipter flyover. probably Cooper’s hawk

    1. Thank you for adding your list, David!
      So fascinating to learn which birds you got to see up in Brooklyn in February. I’m blown away by the amount and the variety of birds you saw – and by your ability to tell apart the different sparrows! Admittedly, I had thought down in Florida we’re fortunate because in the winter we get to keep our regular birds and also get the Northern birds. I didn’t realize how many stay up there – or maybe come down from even further North. You even saw more titmice and cardinals than I saw this weekend. And all the nuthatches and juncos we don’t seem to get here.
      I want to go to Green-Wood Cemetery right now. Seems to be a bird paradise. I remember seeing monk parakeets there during the summer. Now I wonder: do they migrate in the winter or are they all huddled together.
      Of course, you’ve been entered in the giveaway.
      It would be awesome to go birding together one day!
      xx Luci

      1. Most were seen around the feeders which makes it much easier! I’m still not that great at the sparrows – I bet there were some others I didn’t recognize.
        The parakeets stay all year. I don’t enter through the main entrance though so I didn’t see any.
        Lucky it was a such a nice day and not too cold!

        1. Glad to know there are feeders in the cemetery – especially with all the snow you’ve been having up there! It’s also around the bird feeder and the berry bushes that I see most of the birds here.
          While I can’t tell any sparrows apart, I can finally see the difference to warblers and finches. Life goals.
          Amazing that the parakeets adapted to the Brooklyn climate.

  5. My next Great Backyard Bird Count list is also from SAT 2/13 – but from spending 2 hours in the late afternoon at a St. Pete bay-side park with a variety of trees, grass with some standing water from the rain, beach, and very shallow salt water.
    2 willets
    1 brown pelican
    1 snowy egret
    1 little blue heron
    1 reddish egret
    1 osprey
    1 red-bellied woodpecker
    14 blue-crowned parakeets (some may have been nanny)
3 loggerhead shrikes
    3 boat-tailed grackles
    … and finally 1 roseate spoonbill
    also a big flock of 31 ibis flying by that I didn’t add to the count since they were just passing by.

  6. So the Great Backyard Bird Count is ON! Unfortunately, we’re having a very rainy weekend – so during my first 60-minute bird counting session around my yard (St. Petersburg, Florida), I didn’t get to see many of the usual suspects. So I watched for another 20 minutes after the next round of rain and saw some more.

    Here is the combined list of bird species for this morning (I didn’t add up the numbers since most of them were probably the same birds as earlier):
    1 Euroasian Collard-Dove
    3 Mourning Doves
    1 Red-Bellied Woodpecker
    3 Blue Jays
    3 Fish Crows
    2 European Starlings
    1 Brown Thrasher
    2 Northern Mockingbirds (flirting hard!)
    1 American Robin
    10 House Sparrows
    1 House Finch
    1 Palm Warbler
    1 Prairie Warbler

  7. I would love to go to a place full of birds and see them in the morning and hear them in the morning. Hard to to that in the city.

    1. It does sound lovely – except if those birds that wake you up are shrieking blue jays, which keeps happening to me. With city noise it’s definitely harder to hear the birds – but there may be more around than you realize. If you spend a little time watching a tree or heading in the nearest park, you might discover there are quite a few birds hiding between the branches.

  8. Sounds like so much fun! There is something so fun and peaceful about bird watching…I have a bird feeder now that I received for Christmas and I just love watching the birds each morning by my window while I drink coffee.

    1. That’s such a great way to start the day, Catherine! Wake up with coffee while “your birds” are having their breakfast – and then you’re all off to have a productive day. Would love to see a list of the birds you saw this weekend as a comment here. You could win one of our three prizes! Happy Birding!

  9. This sounds like a lot of fun to participate in! I love birds and have a few feeders out in my yard.

    1. Wonderful! Watching birds brings so much joy, doesn’t it? Sounds like you’re all set up to count some birds this weekend. Don’t forget to come back and share which birds you saw for a chance to win one of our three prizes.

    2. This seems fun to participate in, only if birds would come out more often where I am. If it was spring time again I would definitely make time to participate in this. Thanks for posting!

      1. Yeah, depending on where you are it might be seeing a lot less birds. We’re especially lucky because here in Florida we not only get our usual birds, but also have a lot of extra snowbirds from up north. But you might be surprised how many birds are still around where you are. They’re just probably all hanging around someone’s birdfeeder. 😉

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