It’s a bird, it’s a plane – nope, another bird: 2018 Great Backyard Bird Count takes off

For bird-watchers, quality has certainly been on display this winter.

Now it’s time to gauge quantity. And for the birding community, expectations likely are running high there, too.

Rare bird sightings have been, well, not as rare as in past years this winter. Reports of snowy owls and the like showing up in unlikely places have been numerous; irruptions have been erupting, particularly across the northern tier of the country it would seem this frigid winter.

A perfect warmup for the Great Backyard Bird Count.

The 21st GBBC kicked off today (Friday, Feb. 16) and runs until Monday, Feb. 19 in backyards – and beyond – across the country. You don’t need to be a birder-type to take part; about 200,000 people participated last year, and for those who haven’t done the GBBC before, it’s regarded as a great introduction to citizen science (the scientific “research” accomplished here is entirely documented by these participants).

To participate, you need only commit to 15 minutes of counting all the birds you see in your backyard, at your feeder or in a local park or National Wildlife Refuge. You can upload your observations to eBird through your computer or the site’s free app. Checklists also may be entered at

According to the GBBC website, results will be available soon after the count is over, and participants should know that they are contributing important data to help researchers learn more about birds.

More than 6,000 bird species were reported last year  – more than half of all the known species in the world, according to the GBBC site.

Also according to the site, overall, participants are most likely to see northern cardinals, downy woodpeckers, dark-eyed juncos, red-tailed hawks, ring-billed gulls, white-breasted nuthatches and snow geese – at least they were the most abundant species in last year’s GBBC.

Snowy owls outside the Arctic region?

This winter, you never know.

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