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WORTH A LOOK: Check out the Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a citizen science project that can be done anywhere birds are found. This cardinal was feeding earlier this winter in the backyard of Grand Forks birder Dave Lambeth. (Photo: Dave Lambeth)

A lot has changed since the first Great Backyard Bird Count was held in 1998. Each year brings more participants to this now-global event. The 20th annual count begins Friday, Feb. 17 and continues through Monday, Feb. 20 in backyards, parks, nature centers and anywhere else you find birds.

As part of the event, bird watchers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at birdcount.org. All of the results contribute to a snapshot of bird distribution, helping scientists see changes over the past 20 years.

"The very first GBBC was an experiment," said the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program. "We wanted to see if people would use the Internet to send us their bird sightings. Clearly the experiment was a success."

eBird collects bird observations globally every day of the year and is the online platform used by the GBBC.

That first year, bird watchers submitted about 13,500 checklists from the U.S. and Canada. Last year, an estimated 163,763 bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted 162,052 bird checklists reporting 5,689 species—more than half the known bird species in the world.

Varying weather conditions so far this winter are producing a few trends participants can watch for during the count. eBird reports show more waterfowl and kingfishers remaining farther north than usual because they are finding open water. A few snowy owls have been reported in the northern half of the U.S.

More info: birdcount.org.

-- Herald staff report

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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