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Backyard Birding: Counting Your Birds

We all love to watch birds. We love their beauty and love their antics. So, let me ask you this one…have you ever counted the birds that you see at your feeders?

Counted them, you ask? You mean like 1, 2, 3? And there’s another one, which makes 4?

That’s exactly what I mean. Three years ago, my wife and I signed up for project Feeder Watch, a Cornell Lab of Ornithology program to help gauge how many birds of what kinds visit backyard bird feeders across the nation. The data goes into a large, centralized data base at the university which is then analyzed by scientists at the lab. It runs annually from November to April.

The thing is, for us, we just never stopped counting. Even though the official data collection period ended that April, we decided to continue to count through the spring, summer, and the rest of the year. So, almost by habit now (as well as enjoyment) every weekend we count the birds at our feeders. We’ve been doing it every weekend for over 3 years now.

We can now say with near certainty when the Juncos will show up during the year (mid-November), when they will leave (mid-March), and when their numbers will peak (January). We can also say that we had more (or less) this year than last and we can compare that number against the number of, say, Cardinals or some other kind of bird.

We can also look back and see how the kinds of birds and their numbers ebb and flow with the changing of the seasons. Goldfinches, for example, are no where to be seen during the entire month of October in our yard, but they are present in various numbers throughout the rest of the year.

It seems like a really nerdy thing to do, but if you enjoy watching birds at your feeders, you may find it habit forming just like we did. It also sharpens your eye with respect to bird identification.

So, I encourage you to try it sometime. You can do it officially through Project Feeder Watch ( or unofficially like we now do. If you have questions about how to get started, just stop by the store and ask any questions you may have. It really is a fun thing to do!

Enjoy the birds!


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