The Beauty of Citizen Science

Written by: Jorge Garcia, Naturalist

Life list? eBird? Birding? Bird count? Citizen scientist? What in the world do any of these terms mean? It’s very possible that you have heard of some or all of these terms before. But, if you don’t know what they mean, that’s ok. Here at River Legacy Nature Center, we will be taking part in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count – an annual, global event that will help shed light on some of these terms. The GBBC, shorthand for the Great Backyard Bird Count, is one of the largest citizen science projects in the world.

During a 4-day period in mid-February, thousands of regular people around the world observe, count, appreciate, and celebrate our feathered friends. Data collected is then submitted to a database and, eventually, is used to help guide conservation efforts and to help ornithologists better understand all facets of the avian world.

The GBBC has a fascinating history and powerful impact. It started 25 years ago, back in 1998, as an initiative by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, one of the world’s leading ornithological research institutions and the National Audubon Society, one of the largest and most-renowned bird and nature conservation organizations in the world. They coordinated one of the first ever internet-based citizen science projects. In 2009, Birds Canada joined the effort as the event took on greater popularity and spread across the North American continent. By 2013, the effort went global and has steadily grown in many countries over the years. In 2022, nearly 400,000 birders in 192 countries were able to observe and count 7,099 bird species – representing an astounding 3/4ths of all bird species currently known to science. River Legacy Park and the River Legacy Nature Center are considered to be one of the largest hotspots of bird diversity in Tarrant County and one of the largest in the Dallas-Ft. Worth region. Birders from all over the world, including well-known individual birders within the birding community, have visited River Legacy to enjoy its avian diversity.

So, how can you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count? The count runs from February 17th through the 20th. You can participate from the comfort of your own backyard for at least 15 minutes throughout that weekend. However, we invite you to participate in person with us and other like-minded citizen scientists. On February 18th, 2023, we will be hosting the Great Backyard Bird Count event here at River Legacy Nature Center from 10 AM to 2 PM. There will be designated areas where you will be able to participate in counting and observing birds. Master naturalists will be on-site to help explain the event, help ID birds, and answer questions you may have. If you’ve never participated in an event like this and don’t know where or how to start, this is a perfect learning opportunity for you! Our master naturalist will help introduce you to the world of birding!

If you are an experienced birder and just want to do your count at River Legacy, you can come too and bond with other birders! Birders of all ages, knowledge, and backgrounds are welcome. In addition to the designated counting and observing areas, we will also have naturalist-led bird walks where you can partake in counting while moving along a designated trail plus a few other activities to celebrate the avian world. We hope to see you at the Nature Center as you spot a northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), a ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula), Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis), or pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), among many other species!