About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Record Number of Countries Join the Great Backyard Bird Count #GBBC

127 countries submitted bird checklists for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, eclipsing last year’s 110 countries. The four-day count ended Monday, but data are continuing to roll in from around the globe, on pace to surpass last year’s record-breaking count.

The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.

Top 10 most frequently reported species (number of checklists reporting this species):

Northern Cardinal, Ella Clem
Species Number of Checklists
Northern Cardinal 50,603
Dark-eyed Junco 48,195
Mourning Dove 41,587
Blue Jay 37,069
Downy Woodpecker 34,555
American Goldfinch 31,397
American Crow 30,452
Tufted Titmouse 30,230
House Finch 30,193
House Sparrow 28, 980

 Top 10 most numerous species (sum of how many individuals were observed across all checklists):

Snow Geese, Larry Jordan
Species Number of Individuals
Snow Goose 1,195,722
Canada Goose 985,763
European Starling 516,723
Mallard 470,340
Red-winged Blackbird 446,496
Ring-billed Gull 409,660
American Coot 391,423
Dark-eye Junco 382,003
American Crow 307,629
American Goldfinch 303,025

Checklists have come from Australia, China, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Iceland, India, Kenya, and even Antarctica! In Canada, participants in British Columbia have racked up the highest provincial total (189) in that country. Participation in the Maritime Provinces is also up with reports from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador already outstripping last year’s totals even before all the data has been entered.

India is the clear superstar outside of North America with nearly 3,000 checklists and the greatest number of species reported at 765!
Country Number of Species Number of Checklists
United States 637 102,839
Canada 231 11,395
India 765 2,913
Australia 488 808
Mexico 632 377
Costa Rica 545 150
United Kingdom 154 146
Portugal 178 135
Puerto Rico 107 132
Honduras 316 99

In North America, California sits atop the leader board with the most checklists and the greatest number of species so far, but New York is nipping at its heels for the checklist record. Ontario, Canada, has jumped into the top 10 for checklists, outdistancing even big birdy states such as Texas, Florida, and North Carolina.
State/Province Number of Species Number of Checklists
California 354 7,607
New York 164 7,161
Pennsylvania 136 6,413
Ontario 144 5,870
Texas 346 5,093
Florida 305 5,011
Ohio 137 4747
Virginia 176 4,537
North Carolina 192 4,500
Michigan 127 3,687

These checklist and species numbers will continue to rise as GBBC participants enter their data for the four days of the count through the end of the month.  Although much more data has yet to be recorded, here are some of the trends noted so far.
  • Fewer Finches
    After last year’s “superflight,” this year’s GBBC reports for 10 irruptive species (mostly finches) are down considerably. This includes reports for the White-winged and Red crossbills, Common and Hoary redpolls, Pine and Evening grosbeaks, Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Bohemian Waxwings. These are natural fluctuations in numbers because of variation in seed crops.
  •  Snowy Owl Invasion Continues
    A massive irruption of Snowy Owls into the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes States of the U.S., as well as southeastern Canada, is easily seen in GBBC numbers. Preliminary results show more than 2,500 Snowy Owls being reported in 25 states and 7 provinces of the U.S. and Canada!

  • The Polar Vortex Effect
    The impact of frigid cold in many part of North America has resulted in unusual movements of waterfowl and grebes. With the Great Lakes almost completely frozen, some species, such as the White-winged Scoter and the Long-tailed Duck have fled the frozen lakes and stopped at inland locations where they are not usually found at this time of year. 
Explore what’s being reported with the new “Explore a Location” tool.  See what species are being reported and how many checklists are being turned in at the county, state/province, and country levels.  Participants may also submit photos for the GBBC photo contest or just explore some of the fantastic images that are coming in! An overall summary of the report will be released in a few weeks.

The GBBC is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

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