Monday, April 13, 2009

Great Backyard Bird Count Highlights

Dynamic Changes in Where the Birds Are
Bird watchers break record for fifth straight year

New York, NY & Ithaca, NY—The 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) featured two invasions this year: voracious Pine Siskins (pictured right) and a whole new crop of citizen-science participants! Bird watchers shattered last year's record by submitting more than 93,600 checklists during the four-day event, held February 16-19. Participants also identified 619 species and sent in thousands of stunning bird images for the GBBC photo contest. The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.

"Each year the GBBC provides the most detailed real-time snapshot of bird distribution across North America," said Rob Fergus, Senior Scientist with the National Audubon Society. "We can see how birds are responding to changing weather patterns, available food sources, and other factors from around the continent."

One of the big stories coming from the GBBC this year was the massive invasion of Pine Siskins and White-Winged Crossbills over much of the eastern United States. These feisty little birds moved southward because of seed crop failures in their usual wintering grounds in Canada and the boreal forests. GBBC participants reported 279,469 Pine Siskins on 18,528 checklists, compared to the previous high of 38,977 birds on 4,069 checklists in 2005. White-winged Crossbills were not as common, but their invasion was still impressive with 4,824 birds on 589 checklists representing a new record over the previous high of 2,854 birds on 135 checklists in 2007.

The GBBC continues to show declines in some common birds, especially grassland and shrubland species. Loggerhead Shrike numbers are down, and although numbers of Northern Bobwhites and Eastern Meadowlarks were both up slightly from last year, they are still being reported in fewer numbers during the GBBC than they were in 2004. These GBBC trends are only preliminary views of what may be going on with these populations, and they must continue to be monitored to get a true long-term view of how these birds are faring.

Species reported for the first time during the Great Backyard Bird Count included two oceanic species--Pink-footed Shearwater and Xantus's Murrelet, both in California. Other first-timers included Baird's Sandpiper, Black-billed Cuckoo, and Blackpoll Warbler. Two rare Mexican species appeared on GBBC checklists from Arizona for the first time: the first Sinaloa Wren ever found north of the border, and a Blue Mockingbird.

"I just love the way this event opens up a new world for so many people," says Cornell Lab of Ornithology Citizen Science Director Janis Dickinson. "We have grandparents counting with their grandchildren, elementary school classrooms doing the GBBC as a special project, nature centers taking visitors out on bird walks. And adults who never noticed birds before are suddenly smitten!"

For a more detailed summary of this year's results, visit the GBBC web site at Explore 2009 data, compare with other years, and find the exact counts for each species in a particular state, province, or town.The Great Backyard Bird Count is sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited.

The next Great Backyard Bird Count is February 15-18, 2010!

#Top 10 most-frequently reported birds in the 2009 GBBC:
1) Northern Cardinal
2) Mourning Dove
3) Dark-eyed Junco
4) American Goldfinch
5) Downy Woodpecker
6) Blue Jay
7) House Finch
8) Tufted Titmouse
9) American Crow
10) Black-capped Chickadee

Visit the "Explore the Results" pages on the GBBC web site to find the list of Top 10 birds reported in your state, province, or city.



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