Photo: How to be a backyard bird scientist

Backyard bird feeders attract more than songbirds! Meet the Cooper's Hawk. (Credit: Theresa Hannah)

Scientists asked themselves, "How can we create a real-time snapshot of bird populations around the world?"

The answer: You and me!

Once upon a time, I birded for a living. But this is great beginner fun. And like any hobby, you'll get better with practice.

Ten reasons not to miss The Great Backyard Bird Count (19th annual) from February 12 to 15, 2016:

  1. It's a great way to help teach kids to count
  2. You only need 15 minutes (but you can do it longer if you want)
  3. It's an opportunity to finally correctly identify that little brown bird
  4. El Nino means you might spot a rare species
  5. It's free
  6. You can try a new DIY project — a fat block bird feeder (contains nuts)
  7. It's important: Researchers need you and me to help get the "big picture" about bird populations
  8. You can do it anywhere (you don't even need a backyard...)
  9. People around the world are doing it
  10. It'll make you an official citizen scientist @SciStarter. (Warning: it can be highly addictive and you could find yourself swabbing frogs for the chytrid fungus or mapping moth distribution during National Moth Week in July.)

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Count birds with me this weekend! Learn how to participate.

Is there a bird you spotted but can't identify? Describe the bird here, including what time of year you saw it, where (city and province), and as many features as possible —size, colours, beak shape, etc. I'll do my best to find an answer.

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

February 9, 2016

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