Every year, for four days in February, the National Audubon Society and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology sponsor the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The project engages citizen scientists in taking a “snapshot” of birds across the continent.
This year’s GBBC will be held February 18-21 and everyone is welcome to participate. The program has has a meaty but user-friendly website, including the GBBC for Kids page with coloring pages and puzzles. The site explains how real scientists use the data from the bird counts, and offers up a lot of science and facts about birds, as well as a photo gallery and downloadable GBBC poster.
The project itself is simple enough for even very young families to try. All you do is go out in your backyard and count birds — for as long (or short) as you want — then fill out an online checklist. The site has a Twitter feed or you can follow the hashtag #GBBC.
I wish I had know about this project before, because I think this is a wonderful, easy introduction to backyard science that can grow right along with your kids. Document your own family’s participation and see how your backyard bird population changes from year to year. The older your kids, the more detailed your research can be.
The Chicago Weather Center predicts temperatures over the four days of the GBBC to be in the high thirties and low forties. So get outside, enjoy this break from the frigid temps and count some birds.