Annual great backyard bird count wants your eyes on the skies, or a nearby birdfeeder

Black-capped chickadee are a common sight in New Brunswick winters. (Submitted by Andrew Holland - image credit)
Black-capped chickadee are a common sight in New Brunswick winters. (Submitted by Andrew Holland - image credit)

You don't have to be a bird expert to help this year's backyard bird count, and your count matters more than you might think.

The great backyard bird count, an annual global event organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society and Birds Canada, is taking place globally this long weekend, from Friday through Feb. 20.

Anyone can participate in the event, regardless of age or level of wildlife knowledge, and options for recording birds vary from old fashioned pen and paper to bird identification apps that can help you identify a bird from photos or audio recordings.

"Sometimes we take it for granted, we sort of overlook the natural beauty in our own areas," said Andrew Holland, spokesperson for Nature Conservancy of Canada.

"We don't necessarily appreciate the birds and the wildlife."

Participants are asked to commit to a minimum of 15 minutes of birdwatching once during the course of the four days, but can participate several times, or over longer sessions if they prefer.

There are a variety of birds to look out for, including house sparrows, classic black-capped chickadees, cooper hawks, and woodpeckers.

Vanessa Moreau/CBC
Vanessa Moreau/CBC

Holland said he thinks it's a nice way to contribute to conservation while spending time outdoors — especially since many people enjoying the outdoors these days do so with a cellphone in their pocket.

"You know, by getting out and taking pictures and then uploading it, you might not think it's a big deal," said Holland. "But actually, the more people take this small act of conservation, it really makes a big difference."

No matter how people decide to participate, birdwatchers just have to look and listen, and submit their data. The organizers of the count want observations from any or all of the specific event dates, but participants have until March 1 to submit the information online.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is not directly tied to the event, but Holland sees the event as a win for conservation as a whole, not to mention potentially a free family activity for the long weekend.

Mike Heenan/CBC
Mike Heenan/CBC

According to the Nature Conservancy, there are between 350 and 500 different bird species in the Maritime provinces.

The great backyard bird count's website gives details on how to participate and submit your information, whether you are participating as a group or as an individual. The website also provides statistics from past counts, and this year's results can be explored after the count is complete.