Northern flickers. (Photo by Chris Cheng)
Local bird-watchers have another chance to be a part of a worldwide bird-counting project May 4, the date of this year's Global Big Day.
The event is an annual 24-hour challenge to birders to get out there and record the birds they are seeing. The data is recorded via eBird, a database of bird-sighting information maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and used by researchers to study bird populations and diversity.
Last year, more than 30,000 people participated in Global Big Day, recording 7,025 bird species, a record for the event, according to eBird.
Participating in this year's event is easy — and free. All you need is an eBird account and some time May 4 to do some bird-watching, whether it's in your own backyard or a favorite spot for birding. And you don't have to devote your entire day to it since even 10 minutes is enough to help.
The birds you see on May 4 can be recorded on eBird either via its mobile app or on its website. You'll also be able to see what birders across the world are seeing as they report their findings.
Global Big Day is similar to two other citizen-scientist bird counts: the Christmas Bird Count, held from mid-December through early January, and the Great Backyard Bird Count, held in February. The data collected from these events is used by researchers across the world.
While the information gleaned from these counts is general in nature, it does "reveal overall trends," said Bob Bryerton, an interpretive naturalist with the Forest Preserve District who has participated in Global Big Day bird counts in the past.
With the advent of programs like eBird, which allows people to easily share what birds they are seeing, more people are able to go out and report their findings.
“Having all these people out there to document is creating a better picture,” Bryerton said.
Bryerton has taken part in Global Big Day with the Thorn Creek Audubon Society, which has participants break up into groups and visit different areas to count the birds they see. He said being a part of a group adds to the camaraderie of the event, and there's even a little friendly competition among the groups to see who spots the most bird species.
The competitiveness is all in good fun, though, because in reality its the collective efforts of people participating worldwide that make a difference.
“The more eyes, the more we can see,” he said.