Four days, 1000 birdwatchers, 800 species. That was India’s contribution from last year to the annual global birdwatching event known as the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), which is due to take place again from 13th to 16th February this year. Organisers say they expect a jump in participation this time, with over 50 educational institutions joining in the effort.
Participation in the GBBC is open to everyone and very simple: the basic activity is to list all bird species seen in a particular location over at least 15 minutes and upload the list to the global bird listing platform www.ebird.org. You can upload as many such lists as you like, from the same or different locations during the four days of the count.
Indians have been participating in the GBBC since 2013. Last year, Indians recorded over 800 species—more species that any other country. The most frequently reported species overall were House Crow, Common Myna and Rock Pigeon. Rare species like the Baikal Teal and the Blue-naped Pitta were also seen during the count.
Thirteen-year-old Arya Vinod was one of the youngest participants in last year’s GBBC. According to her “It was very exciting to be part of a global activity for birds. From my experience I can say that these events give a greater understanding and awareness of our precious natural heritage. My hope is that this will lead to conserving it so that future generations can enjoy it as much as we do.”
In India, the GBBC is being coordinated by Bird Count India, an umbrella group of a large number of birding, nature and conservation organizations. “Events like these demonstrate the power of engaging citizens in learning about the natural world and monitoring how it is changing”, said Dr VB Mathur, Director of the Wildlife Institute of India (a member of the Bird Count India partnership). “Over time, the information generated from the GBBC can be used to see whether some species are declining and others increasing. Therefore this event needs to be supported by professionals as well as enthusiasts and society at large.”
Birdwatchers are planning a number of local events accompanying the GBBC. More than 50 campuses across the country have signed up for the ‘Campus Bird Count’, as effort to document and describe the birds that make their home in educational and institutional campuses. Other groups have planned local bird walks for the public to spread interest and awareness. Dr Asad Rahmani, Director of BNHS-India (which is also a partner in Bird Count India) says, “The Great Backyard Bird Count is an exciting opportunity for all nature enthusiasts in the country to help document India’s birds. Proper documentation is important for long-term conservation planning for birds.”
The Kerala Common Bird Monitoring Programme is another event that will happen at the same time as the GBBC. Dr PO Nameer, coordinator of this programme said “We see this as an opportunity to better understand the distribution and abundance of birds of our state, and at the same time to involve the general public in an important documentation activity.”
More information about the GBBC, Campus Bird Count, and other associated events can be found at www.birdcount.in, the website of the Bird Count India partnership. The global GBBC event is organized by Cornell University and the Audubon Society in America.
Bird Count India is a consortium of organizations and groups working together to increase our collective knowledge about bird distributions and populations. We do this by conducting periodic bird-related events and activities, by offering support and resources to birding groups for conducting their own events, and by providing useful information on bird monitoring.