Great Backyard Bird Count Builds on Audubon’s Greatest Contribution

John James Audubon’s Greatest Contribution to Conservation is Awareness

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s almost time for the Great Backyard Bird Count, so I dusted off my February 1977 issue of National Geographic to reread a story about John James Audubon.

In the article, ‘Audubon On the Wing,’ Roger Tory Peterson, one of the world’s greatest naturalists and wildlife artist, points out that Audubon’s contribution to wildlife protection is not conservation.

“His contribution is awareness, which he more than anyone else seems to symbolize,” says Peterson.

If awareness comes before all else, and Audubon’s contribution is awareness, that in itself is enough.

Those magical lines are the most significant takeaway from a story written about Audubon 44 years ago.

Great Backyard Bird Count is a great opportunity for all budding birdwatchers and bird-count veterans to use their skills. Pictured is a beautiful male Pileated Woodpecker.

Audubon Heightens Awareness

The National Geographic sits on my bookshelf as a relic from my childhood because I’ve always enjoyed Audubon’s bird artwork.

It serves as a reminder that Audubon’s greatest contribution to the world is increasing our awareness about the wildlife around us.

As a result, we cherish and protect it for future generations to enjoy.

The society that bears his name, the National Audubon Society, uses science, education, and grassroots advocacy to advance its conservation mission.

With 500 local chapters, its voice is loud and mighty.

The exciting part of counting birds is that you never know where a bird might show up

Great Backyard Bird Count

The 24th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count is a four-day event that takes place February 12-15.

It’s a joint project between some of the biggest names in birding: the National Audubon Society,  Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds Canada, and Wild Birds Unlimited.

Taking part in this annual rite of winter birding, we carry on the tradition of increasing awareness when counting birds in real-time that we see in our yard.

“The GBBC is a simple, welcoming project that both new and veteran birdwatchers enjoy,” says David Bonter, Co-Director of the Center for Engagement in Science and Nature at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

“Birds are everywhere and can be counted in backyards, neighborhoods, suburban parks, wild areas, and cities. Scientists need the eyes of the world to collect information about where the birds are.”

Studies show pausing to observe birds, their sounds and movements, improve human health. Pictured is a Belted Kingfisher.

Being Part in the Great Backyard Bird Count

It’s easy to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Grab a pair of binoculars.

Write down all the birds you see in as little as 15 minutes or as long as you wish on one or more days of the four-day event.

There are 15 species of sparrows in North America and identification can be tricky. Using the Merlin Bird ID app makes bird ID a snap. Pictured is a Swamp Sparrow.

If you can’t identify a bird, take a photo.

Then go to the handy Merlin Bird ID app created by the incredible people at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Upload the pic for identification.

Then go to report your sightings.

And feel proud to earn the title of Citizen Scientist at a time when birds need us most.

The results of the Great Backyard Bird Count help scientists better protect birds and the environment we share.

So stay safe and comply with all current country, province, state, or municipal Covid-19 regulations.

Get out and see and count birds, and do your part to increase awareness about the wildlife around you.


Leave a Reply
  1. Still using my Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America. Bought it in 1970:)

    • Hi David…that’s fabulous! Peterson’s Field Guides are incredible resources. And the art work is terrific!

  2. The 1977 National Geographic article, Audubon “On the Wing” was written by David Jeffery, with photographs by Bates Littlehales. I have it in front of me. Not sure where Roger Tory Peterson comes into it!

    • Hi Erika. On page 168 of the National Geographic article is the mention where Peterson points out Audubon’s greatest contribution is awareness.

      It’s a great story with so many fabulous photographs. Glad you have a copy too!

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