Birds and their population numbers are important for indicating overall health of ecosystems, making them bioindicator species. Have you participated in a bird count in your backyard, as part of a community science project, or as part of an event at an educational center?

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an important way for scientists to gather information about bird species and bird migration, and it is a great way for absolutely anyone to get involved in the scientific community.

Why is Birding Data Important to Scientists?

Overall, scientists can examine what bird migration tells us about our changing climate. The migratory patterns of birds are important bioindicators of climate change, and we are beginning to see the dire effects this indicator has.

Birds are heavily affected by changes in temperature, moisture, and extreme weather conditions, so it is no surprise that they are sensitive to climate change. One of the most prominent ways that the changing climate has affected migration is the loss or alteration of their habitat. Many conserved areas for birds can no longer sustain many species, therefore forcing birds to relocate to unprotected areas.

Additionally, according to a Climate Risk Report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the doubling of CO2 in the Arctic could cause the loss of nearly half of the breeding grounds of 10 million geese and 15 million wading birds by 2080-2099. There are even species of birds that are abandoning their migration altogether because of the extreme temperatures, like cranes in Germany that halted their migration to Spain and Portugal in the winter. This is particularly concerning because birds are then forced to combat the winter weather that they would normally travel away from.

Another issue is that the changing climate is disrupting and confusing biological clocks for migratory bird species. Birds are starting to arrive early or late to their destinations. This may not seem like a huge issue, however birds can miss out on valuable food resources! Many that rely on the spring insect emergence, or need certain plants to be in bloom, can miss out. Ornithologists all around the world are collecting data on the arising migratory trends to help mitigate problems.

Marissa of The Art of Ecology shares her submitted bird count checklist.
Marissa of The Art of Ecology shares her submitted bird count checklist.

Submitting Bird Count Data

Counts such as the Great Backyard Bird Count or the Christmas Bird Count are some of the best ways to help ornithologists collect data on birds. It gives them the ability to see trends in migration on a large scale, and it’s a great way to help the scientific community and our diverse bird population.

Another method of contributing to the scientific community throughout the year is to use the iNaturalist app. This free app is not only a way to help you identify living creatures that you see, but each observation that you submit and include geo tags, images, and species data contributes to a data collection database. Scientists from all over the world can view the species populations, population movement, geographical data, and more by using observations submitted by you!

As The Great Backyard Bird Count comes to an end, consider continuing to monitor your local birds. You can still plug in your data through and on eBird! Did you get to count this year? Share some of your bird count highlights in the comments section below. Thank you to everybody who participated in this year’s bird count for contributing to the scientific community at large.

Lucy McGinty - 2022 Intern
Lucy McGinty – 2022 Intern

I am an environmental studies college student, and The Art of Ecology’s new intern! My career goal is to become an environmental microbiologist—a person who studies the microorganisms in the environment and their relationship to pollution! I am so excited to [learn more about ecology] and ways we can do better.

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