Here's an idea for the whole family to take part in this long weekend.

To help beat the winter blues, staff at the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) are encouraging Albertans to participate in one of the world’s largest community science projects this upcoming long weekend.

All people need to do is go outside for 15 minutes or more, at least once over the four days, listen for cheeps and caws, and watch for birds in their yards, neighbourhoods, nature reserves or local parks. 

The 26th annual Great Backyard Bird Count runs from Friday, February 17th to Monday, February 20th. When participants document their findings through the eBird app, they’re contributing vital information that helps experts track the health of bird populations in Alberta.

People can choose from several tools to participate and identify what they see and hear:

Last year, just over 384,000 people in 192 different countries participated. In Canada, there were over 57,000 lists of birds submitted across all 10 provinces and 3 territories. It’s a great family activity and an excellent way to connect to nature close to home.

Bird populations are declining in Canada. Habitat loss is a major factor in that. On the one hand, waterfowl and birds of prey appear to be growing in number, more than doubling their populations since 1970. On the other hand, shorebirds and aerial insectivores like swallows appear to be disappearing at alarming rates. Loss of grassland birds in the Prairies is a major concern. NCC’s conservation work protects critical habitats for these species.

Alberta facts:

  • Nature Conservancy of Canada’s work supports 26 different birds that are species at risk in Alberta. These include grassland birds such as Baird’s sparrow and Sprague’s pipit, aerial insectivores such as common nighthawk and barn swallow and migratory songbirds of the boreal forest like olive-sided flycatcher and Canada warbler.
  • Alberta offers a variety of habitats in which to explore and look for birds, ranging from the mountains and boreal forest, to prairies and parklands, and riversides.
  • February offers some unique birding opportunities, as bird species that breed far and away can be seen in our own figurative backyards. These include species that breed in the Arctic such as snowy owl and snow bunting to those that breed high in the mountains, such as Barrow’s goldeneye and harlequin duck.
  • One of the most inspiring winter species is bohemian waxwing, a beautiful songbird species that breeds in the mountains and northern forests, but in the winter, descend on Alberta’s cities in the millions to scarf down the fruit of trees such as mountain ash and fruit trees

**With information provided by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC)