The 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is less than two weeks away, taking place all around the world February 14–17. This week we unveiled a brand-new GBBC website with a fresh look. Our aim was to make it easier for you to find exactly what you need to participate, and to integrate better with eBird, with which the GBBC merged last year. If you’ve never participated in the GBBC before, or if it’s been a while since you took part, hop over to www.birdcount.org after you’re finished reading to do a bit of exploring.
When the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society first launched the GBBC in 1998, no one knew whether it was possible to involve thousands of people in reporting and exploring bird data online in real time. It turned out to be a huge success. Thanks to participants, the GBBC became a model for online citizen science and led to the development of eBird, with millions of observations submitted every month from nearly every country in the world.
In 2013, we replaced the aging GBBC data-entry system with eBird’s more sophisticated tools. This brought four key benefits: expanding the count area from the U.S. and Canada to every country in the world; increasing scientific value of the observations by enabling users to mark their precise location on a map rather than just using zip code; eliminating the need for double data-entry (you can enter your data just once, either in eBird or the GBBC since they go into the same system); and enabling you to track and edit all your checklists submitted to either project.
At the same time, we also received lots of feedback from participants who missed certain features of the original GBBC system. We took this feedback to heart and launched some new features this year:
- Explore a Location. In the past, GBBC participants enjoyed friendly competitions between towns to see who could submit the most checklists or tally the most birds. Because we no longer collect data by zip code and the existing mapping technology does not include town boundaries, we can’t display data by towns. However, with our new features under Explore Data, you’ll be able to see which species are being reported in your county, state, or country.
- Plan a Trip. Find locations with the most checklists and species. Use this tool to help you find the best places to go birding—not only during the GBBC, but any time of year!
- Photo Gallery. By popular demand, we’ll be showcasing photos right on the home page as participants from around the world send in their best shots for the GBBC photo contest. New streamlined photo tools make it easier than ever for you to view and participate.
- GBBC Toolkit. Look for the GBBC Toolkit in the right column. We’ve provided how-tos in text and video form, tricky bird ID help, bird lists, buttons for your website, and more resources to enhance your knowledge about the count and why we do it. Be sure to sign up for the GBBC enewsletter to keep in touch with news and results from the count!
- Birding Apps. Download the free GBBC BirdLog app to submit your observations on iOS or Android devices during the count. Try the free Merlin Bird ID app for iOS devices to help you identify the birds you see!
If you’d like a more detailed run-through about the Great Backyard Bird Count, how it works, and why it’s important, please watch and share this 8-minute video:
So check out the new Great Backyard Bird Count website and be ready to count birds with tens of thousands of others worldwide, February 14–17. We can’t wait to see your bird lists!
(Image: Snowy Owl, first prize overall in the 2013 GBBC photo contest, by Diane McAllister. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint effort by the Cornell Lab and National Audubon Society with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.)