Jan 23rd, 2020

The Great Backyard Bird Count at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Did you know that more than 1 in 4 birds have disappeared in the last 50 years? According to research from Science, wild birds in the United States and Canada have decreased by nearly 30 percent since 1970.  The report describes “wide-spread population declines of birds over the past half-century, resulting in the cumulative loss of billions of breeding individuals across a wide range of species and habitats.”  Finding which birds are missing and where they are located is key. That’s where you come in!

Bird Count

Northern Cardinal in red and brown feathers and snow.

The Northern Cardinal is one of the birds you might see during this Citizen Science event. Image by Jerry Uhlman

Citizen Science events like the Great Backyard Bird Count are important sources of information as we look at global warming, development, deforestation and their effect on nature. The next Great Backyard Bird Count is February 14-17, 2020 and takes place all across America in thousands of communities. Bird watchers of all ages count birds to create a real-time snapshot of where birds are.  Here at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, we’ll be counting birds on February 15, 2020, from 9 a.m. to noon. You can help too!  And children are welcome to help with a parent.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is sponsored by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society and has been held each winter throughout North America since 1998. Both individuals and groups record information about bird species and numbers of birds that they identify in their backyards, neighborhood parks or other natural areas. Even if you can only look for birds for 15 minutes you can help!  After we collect this information we report ut to the Cornell Lab where scientists use data from their many citizen science projects worldwide to develop conservation plans to help birdlife flourish.  But even if you can’t attend our event you can still participate from home by searching in your own back yard. You can submit your bird counts and even photos if you like on the Great Backyard Bird Count website.

The Cornell Lab is a leader in sponsoring ornithological research and spearheading citizen science, and Lewis Ginter is excited to participate in this distinguished university’s project to support our birdlife.  They even have a wildlife media archive with 16,205,845 photos, sounds, and videos from around the world!  If you love birds, you’ll want to check it out.

a song sparrow singing on a redbud tree

A song sparrow doing its thing! Image by Jerry Uhlman.

Activities for this family-oriented event will include bird count tours through Garden Guides from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Virginia Master Naturalists,  the Virginia Bluebird Society and the Richmond Audubon Society. Please pre-register for these free tours as space is limited.  You’re welcome to participate in just the guided bird walk or enjoy finding birds in the garden on your own, or both. Morning activities will be located in the Robins Room, where you’ll find a tally of species identified during the morning displayed and updated following each completed bird walk.

The Great Backyard Bird Count will give you an excellent opportunity to learn more about birdwatching and bird identification technics, with skilled birders on hand to answer questions and give you pointers. Newcomers to birdwatching and birdwatchers of all ages (with a parent) are welcome to join in the bird count. Dress warmly, bring your binoculars and join a team of citizen scientists to track birds’ status in the ecosystem. The Great Backyard Bird Count activities are included with regular Garden admission.

If you aren’t free to help during the Great Backyard Bird Count but still want to help out, remember citizens can count birds anytime and anywhere and submit their findings on ebird.

Carolina wren on a branch

The Carolina wren is just one of the birds you might see during the Great Backyard Bird Count. Image by Jerry Uhlman.


About Jerry Uhlman

Jerry Uhlman, is a Garden volunteer and an avid birder who wrote the Flyways & Byways column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch for 20 years. He also penned the Birder’s Guide to Metropolitan Richmond guidebook (available in Lewis Ginter Garden Shop) and articles for national wildlife magazines. Watch for him in Boomer magazine, too!

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