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Michigan’s backyard bird enthusiasts can join global count this weekend

 pileated woodpecker on the tree

The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker species in Michigan. They are a common bird species in the state and can be found everywhere except in the “thumb.”  (Steve-Luke Macaulay/Courtesy of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

  • Observers around the world can partake in the Great Backyard Bird Count starting Friday 
  • Researchers are asking people to observe birds for at least 15 minutes and submit their findings to a database
  • There are tools available to easily identify birds by sound or sight 

A backyard view of a pileated woodpecker, a black-capped chickadee or even a winter wren this weekend could be part of a worldwide bird count. 

The Great Backyard Bird Count returns for the 27th year, beginning Feb.16 through Feb.19. The global event gives people the opportunity to observe birds and submit their findings to a database. 


“A lot of people just don't realize how interesting and neat birds are,” said Becca Rodomsky-Bish, project leader for the great backyard bird count. “They don't realize sometimes the diversity of birds that may be around them and so this is an opportunity to sort of have that spark moment where you realize, ‘Wow, that there are birds and their species that I never even knew existed out there.’”

People are asked to watch birds for at least 15 minutes, count and identify the type, then submit their observations to eBird. 


Observers can use Merlin from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a tool that makes it easier to identify bird species by either sound, photo or by answering three simple questions. 

This type of data from around the world allows a view into bird movements, including new locations for different species, which can paint a picture of a changing environment, Rodomsky-Bish said.

Researchers are using the data to answer broader questions related to climate change, for example. Rodomsky-Bish said it is very likely the data from the event will show that changing weather patterns have influenced when and where birds migrate. 

Rodomsky-Bish said she is looking forward to data that shows birds may be moving earlier and farther north than in previous years due to the warm weather this winter. 

The Department of Natural Resources encourages safe practices for attracting birds. 


“One of the things that we recommend is to make sure they keep their feeders clean and do it before you start to see sick birds,” said Julie Melotti of the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab.

“Keep areas around bird feeders tidy and clean. If food gets scattered on the ground just pick it up,” she said.  

Diseases like Salmonellosis and various strains of bird influenza are easily transmitted through bird feeders, Melotti said. Highly pathogenic diseases can be spread to other birds like turkeys and chickens. 

“Birds are really important to protect because they provide a lot of ecosystem services and a lot of cultural services to people,” she said. “In addition to all that they give to agricultural and to natural environments, they’re also obviously something that people really enjoy looking at and being around.”

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