[audubon-news] Great Backyard Bird Count Initial Results are in

  • From: "BIANCHI, John" <JBIANCHI@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <audubon-news@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2003 14:04:18 -0500

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Contact: John Bianchi
jbianchi@xxxxxxxxxxx <mailto:jbianchi@xxxxxxxxxxx>


Now, Participants Encouraged to "eBird" Year Round

Ithaca, NY & New York, NY, April 2, 2003 - Bird enthusiasts across North 
America submitted almost 50,000 checklists totaling more than four million 
birds during the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 14 through 17, 2003.  The 
event, one of the largest citizen-science projects in the world, documented a 
regional decline of at least one bird species that may be the result of West 
Nile virus in those regions.

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), developed and maintained by the Cornell 
Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, with sponsorship from Wild 
Birds Unlimited, asked people across the U.S. and Canada to watch birds in 
their backyard, local park, or other locale, and to submit their sightings to 
www.birdsource.org/gbbc <http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc>.  The online aspect of 
the count means birders quickly see how their results complement the 
continent-wide picture.  Now, Cornell and Audubon offer these participants the 
ability to record sightings throughout the year with the launch of eBird.

This year's GBBC documented the whereabouts of 512 species, one of which showed 
declines in some areas compared to previous years.  American Crows were 
reported in alarmingly fewer numbers in Illinois and Ohio, where West Nile 
virus has had a strong presence. "This decrease may or may not be related to 
West Nile, but the situation is certainly something we need to pay attention 
to," says John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Crows 
seem to be particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Other species showed increases this year. GBBC participants in the eastern U.S. 
counted more Dark-eyed Juncos than they had since 2000, perhaps because a 
massive snowstorm hit the eastern seaboard during the weekend of the count, 
driving birds to feeders in high numbers.  That same snowstorm apparently held 
early migrants like Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, and American 
Woodcock farther south, compared to previous years.

In the West, Mountain Bluebirds were reported farther south than last year, and 
all of the rosy finches (Black, Gray-crowned, Brown-capped) were documented 
farther north.  In previous years, GBBC maps of Eurasian Collared-Dove, a 
species introduced in the Bahamas before reaching Florida, showed the species 
spreading quickly northwestward. This year, the maps show no change, suggesting 
a slow down in the rate at which the bird's range is spreading. 

The GBBC was developed to help monitor the abundance and distribution of birds 
in late winter, helping researchers spot alarming trends before situations 
become critical.  "As we see rapid changes in our environment, like the spread 
of West Nile virus and shifts in species' ranges, bird monitoring projects such 
as the Great Backyard Bird Count become increasingly important," says Frank 
Gill, Audubon's vice president for science. "We hope that the tens of thousands 
of people who participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count will begin 
submitting their observations to our latest online monitoring tool, eBird." 

eBird, www.birdsource.org/ebird <http://www.birdsource.org/ebird> , lets 
birders submit their sightings over the Internet to a vast database anytime, 
anywhere. They can create their own pull-down menu of their favorite birding 
locales by plotting their location on a map. They can also choose from the list 
of birding hot spots already created for each state and province. Their reports 
are pooled for access in any number of ways. They can look at their own reports 
for a given location, or on at certain date. They can sort by species. They can 
even view sightings made by other birders while their own data are made 
accessible to others. "eBird is a dream come true," says Fitzpatrick. "There's 
nothing else out there that lets you input your bird sightings and manage them 
the way you want to, while at the same time making them available to 
scientists, conservationists, educators-anyone with an Internet connection.  I 
enter my own reports daily-I'm hooked." 

"For years, my bird records have been piling up on shelves, in accessible to 
anyone but myself.  With eBird, those sightings become a powerful tool for 
science and conservation," says Gill. He adds that birders can even enter their 
records dating back years, even decades. "It's a great feeling to get those 
data off the shelf and into the hands, so to speak, of people that can use 

Birders are invited to try eBird right away, and to view results of the Great 
Backyard Bird Count. Top ten lists of all sorts are available at the web site, 
as are maps of every species reported. Results from previous years are also 

Next year's Great Backyard Bird Count will take place February 13 - 16, 2004.  
For more information on the Great Backyard Bird Count and eBird, write the 
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 or the 
National Audubon Society Science Office, 545 Almshouse Road, Ivyland, PA, 18974.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution interpreting and 
conserving the earth's biological diversity through research, education, and 
citizen science focused on birds.

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat 
that supports them.  Our national network of community-based nature centers and 
chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas 
sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages 
and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

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