Three-day Great Backyard Bird Count to begin on February 15
The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), the world’s largest coordinated birding exercise, involving both ornithologists and amateurs alike is back for its 21st edition later this week.
Begun in 1998, with participants from more than 150 countries, the GBBC is a global event where birders of all skill levels help estimate bird abundance and distribution. Participants count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, they then enter their checklists at the eBird website. The data helps compile a snapshot of bird populations that enables scientists to detect population changes over time.
“The purpose of the GBBC is two-fold. One is to get a large section of people interested in and looking at birds and, another is that through the sightings contributed by birdwatchers, to generate an annual snapshot of the status of India’s birds so that they can be monitored year on year,” says Suhel Quader, ornithologist with the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Bangalore.
Last year nearly two lakh checklists - a list of birds observed by a birder at any given time - were submitted from across the world. These checklists had reported a total of 28 lakh individual birds, representing 6,459 species. This is more than half of all the bird species in the world.
India had submitted 13,276 checklists, just behind Canada, which had submitted 14,008 and the United States, which had submitted 1,08,921. India was also among the countries to report the most number of species.
As Quader adds, “I think that birds being so prominent in our lives, our stories and our culture, people are naturally drawn towards birds. And in recent years there has been a surge of interest in birds and wildlife in general. In addition, the idea that by contributing my observations I can help generate information to better understand and conserve birds is also a motivating factor.”
As part of the GBBC, a nationwide campus bird count is also being organised, for which more than 100 institutions across the country have signed up already. Sakshi Rana, a doctoral student at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), who will take part in the campus count at her institute’s Dehra Dun campus told the Hindustan Times, “I’m an occasional birder and this will be the second time I will participate in this event. I think it’s a great way to engage people and at the same time, the exercise offers good data as well.” She adds, “More than 40 people will take part in our campus and we have also organised birding sessions for children from Dehra Dun who will be visiting the campus during the GBBC.”
The GBBC has been coordinated in India by Birdcount India since 2013. Birdcount India is an umbrella group of a large number of birding, nature and conservation organisations.
The GBBC will run from February 15 till February 18 and the hopes are to better last year’s participation numbers from India.
Last year, about 1,500 birders covered 271 districts across 29 states and union territories in India. As Quader says, “I think it is important that science and research not be thought of as the exclusive domain of specialists. Citizen science projects such as this can act as catalysts for people to engage with science, and its methods and outcomes.”