For a quarter of a century the annual Great Backyard Bird Count has been a bright spot for nature lovers. The 25th edition of the event is coming up February 18 through 21. Everyone is invited to join the count so their birds become part of the massive database used by scientists to track changes in bird populations over time. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Birds Canada.

An estimated 300,000 people worldwide submitted checklists during last year’s count, setting a new record in participation. Their combined records reported 6,436 species during the three-day citizen science project. These records are extremely valuable to researchers, ornithologists and other conservationists who are keeping tabs on the world’s avian species.

“Birds tell us how our environment and climate are changing,” Chad Wilsey, chief scientist at the National Audubon Society, said in a recent press release. “By joining the Great Backyard Bird Count, participants can contribute valuable data that help scientists better understand our surroundings. Together we can use this information to better protect birds and the places they need.”

It only takes 15 minutes during the three-day event to participate, but you can choose to record bird sightings throughout the entire event if you choose. And because bird-watching can be done from practically anywhere, people from all skill levels and all walks of life can contribute to the valuable data being collected through the program.

“Sometimes people feel intimidated about jumping into the world of birds if they have no previous experience,” said Patrick Nadeau, president of Birds Canada. “The Great Backyard Bird Count is a wonderful way to get your feet wet, feel the warmth of the community, and start to realize the wonders in your own neighborhood. The tools and resources are free. And you are helping birds when you get involved.”

To learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit birdcount.org. For Arkansans interested in taking their birding to the next level, visit agfc.com/wingsoverarkansas, a special bird-watching program established by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that rewards participants with pins and recognition for recording bird species throughout The Natural State.

Other helpful bird-watching resources include:

Merlin Bird ID app: https://www.birdcount.org/merlin-bird-id-app
eBird Moble app: https://www.birdcount.org/ebird-mobile-app