Well, another Great Backyard Bird Count has come and gone and the 2017 installment was more successful than ever. Shattering records, this year’s count was the biggest count on record, as birders submitted more checklists and counted more species than ever before recorded in the 20-year history of the count.
Getting its start in the late 1990’s, the GBBC is one of the largest counts on Earth and is an essential tool in biological research for our feathered friends. By leveraging citizen science, counts such as this one give ornithologists and researchers sufficient data from around the world, allowing them to make informed decisions such as population estimates and migrational patterns.
The record-breaking count featured over 200,000 participants this year who completed almost as many checklists (173,826). In comparison with last year’s numbers, this year’s participant count increased by 31 percent, while completed checklists increased by 7 percent.
Total species identified also increased over last year’s numbers as birders recorded 5,940 different species in 2017 compared to 5,689 a year ago. While these numbers are high, administrators are still receiving checklists, so expect these numbers to continue to climb.
As far as species go, the northern cardinal appeared most often, represented on over 52,000 submitted checklists, followed closely by the American crow and mourning dove. In terms of sheer numbers, nothing came close to the iconic snow goose, in which counts recorded a whopping 4.793 million individuals. Second to that was the red-winged blackbird which was counted 2.46 million times. It is worth noting that North America is home to the largest contingent of participants, hence why these results reflect so many birds native to the continent.
While the United States dominated when it came to both number of species counted as well as submitted checklists, Canada had a very strong showing, considering the stark population differences between the two neighbouring countries.
Four Canadian Provinces broke previous records, indicating a growing birding presence across the Great White North. Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island all broke previous checklist records and Canada as a whole also submitted more checklists than previously recorded with nearly 15,000 submittals.
Ontario had the strongest finish across the country, with over 7,000 submitted checklists and 158 different species recorded in 2017.