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Great Backyard Bird Count begins Friday

February 17, 2011 | 11:31 am

Flowers attract a hummingbird.

It's time to break out the binoculars, birding books and notepads and get outside in the name of science.

Birding enthusiasts both novice and expert are encouraged to participate in the 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count Friday through Monday across the U.S. and Canada.

"Whether people notice birds in backyards, parks or wilderness areas, we ask that they share their counts," said Judy Braus, Audubon’s senior vice president of Education and Centers. "It’s fun and rewarding for people of all ages and skill levels."

A joint project of the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada, it's an opportunity for people to monitor the bird activity in their neighborhoods. Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes, or for as long as they wish, on one or more days of the event and report their sightings online.

"When thousands of people all tell us what they’re seeing, we can detect changes in birds' numbers and locations from year to year," said Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Last year, birders turned in 97,200 checklists -- a nearly 4% increase over the prior year -- identified 602 species and counted 11.2 million individual birds.

The GBBC website is chock-full of useful information, including printable regional tally sheets, frequently asked questions and information on entering the annual photo contest.

The survey is conducted in February to provide a snapshot of how birds are surviving the winter and where they are located just before spring migrations begin in March.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Flowers attract a hummingbird. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times