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Great Backyard Bird Count of 2023 made easier with smartphone apps

Citizen scientists can help log data on the birds you see in your garden through Monday.

The 26th Great Backyard Bird Count, or GBBC, aims to collect data on birds as a means of verifying various types of species and how they interact with the environment through a global snapshot over time.

Participants who wish to record their sightings are encouraged to spend at least 15 minutes in their backyard, or anywhere else, and submit their findings to birdcount.org, which includes searches for the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Birds Canada.

Cornell offers smartphone apps that can help with the process and send results automatically. One of the applications, Merlin Bird ID, can use your phone’s microphone to identify bird sounds. It also lets you upload your own photo to match birds through its database.

Moreover:Bird watchers in the Topeka area see a wide variety of migratory species

The bird population decreased by 3 billion between 1970 and 2019

This ever-growing eBird database is collected at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, and has shown a steady decline in overall bird populations globally. In 2019, researchers found that there were 3 billion fewer birds in North America than in 1970.

Fortunately, dwindling bird populations have fueled an increase in citizen scientists to help. Last year, some 384,641 participants from 192 countries helped identify 7,099 species.

Numerous birds and habitats can be seen in Topeka and Shawnee County.

In December, the Topeka Audubon Society hosted its 76th annual Topeka Christmas Bird Count within a 7-mile radius of the Kansas Statehouse. Seventy-eight species and 14,235 birds were identified locally by 24 participants.

“It’s a little below average,” said Carol Morgan, editor of the company’s newsletter. “Our average is about 17,000 birds, individuals counted. So that’s less than what we count as total individuals, but it’s higher than the average (number of species). The average is 71 species.”

The Topeka Audubon Society does monthly walks and field trips

In addition to the Christmas tally, the society goes on a monthly walk and takes field trips to other counties where they record their findings.

“The purpose of the Great Backyard Bird Count is to engage more people who are just looking in their backyards, not really going on field trips,” Morgan said. “What Cornell is trying to do with the Great Backyard Bird Count is get maybe, you know, thousands and thousands more people around the world or across the country to look in their backyards and think about birds and count them.”

Even if what you see are common birds, like American crows, the black-hatted chickadee or a house sparrow, they’re worth considering, or even photographed and shared on Audubon’s Facebook page, Morgan said.

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