how to count birds at a feeder

How to count your birds

All FeederWatchers must count birds in precisely the same manner in order for FeederWatch data to be utilized for scientific research. You should count any birds that you see in your count site during the day for Project FeederWatch that are drawn to something you provide. Here’s how to conduct your two-day count:

  • Keep a tally sheet and field guide handy.
  • Count the number of individuals in view at the same time each time you come across a species within your count site during your count days, and note that number on your tally sheet. (For instance, if you notice two Blue Jays and one Northern Cardinal when you first glance at your feeder, note these numbers next to their names.) ).
  • If more individuals of a species are visible at a later time during your two-day count, update your tally sheet to reflect the greater number. (For instance, alter the number of Northern Cardinals on your tally sheet from one to two and the number of Blue Jays from two to three if you later see two Northern Cardinals and three Blue Jays.) Record only the greatest number of individuals of each species in view at any given time during the two-day count; do not sum up your counts. You won’t report a single bird more than once if you use this method.
  • The greatest number of individuals you saw concurrently during your two-day count becomes your final total and the number for each species that you will report to FeederWatch. You will make one report for each two-day count.
  • On your count days, note the date and the amount of time you spent watching birds.
  • Watch for eye disease in goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, and evening grosbeaks. Record the number of individuals in each species that you observe having the disease at any given time during each count.
  • all of the individuals that are in view simultaneously. For instance, count all eight House Sparrows if there are two on your feeder and six others are in a nearby bush waiting their turn.
  • Even though they don’t eat or bathe, birds that are drawn to your count site by something you offered or the activity around your feeders For instance, count birds that forage with feeder birds but may not visit your feeders directly, such as warblers and Brown Creepers.
  • birds that come to your count site because of the fruits or plants you keep Examples include Cedar Waxwings and American Robins.
  • hawks, owls, and other predatory birds that are drawn to the birds at your feeders, including shrikes and roadrunners, even if the predators are unable to capture their prey.
  • birds like Sandhill Cranes or Canada Geese that just fly over your count site
  • avian or mammal sightings you make outside of your selected count days If you would like to report a sighting of a bird that you saw on a day when there was no count, you can do so by using the Comment Form, which is accessible via the link on the right side of the Data Entry homepage, or by using the space provided for reporting counts.
  • birds or mammals that you only hear.
  • birds or mammals that you capture on camera alone (report only those species that you come across while conducting your counts)

Your Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) reports are always available to you, and you can review them at any time to make any corrections or additions. Click “My eBird” after logging into your account to make changes. ” Click on “Manage My Checklists” in the right-hand column. Here you can scroll through your list and make changes. To make modifications to your saved birding locations, you can also select “Manage My Locations.”

One of the questions you’ll be asked to answer when entering your Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) data is how many people helped create the checklist. Only one person needs to enter the data. Clicking “Share w/Others in Your Party” in the right-hand column of the bird checklist page will allow you to share this list with the other members of your group. Once they accept it, the other members of your group can make changes to their copy of the checklist. (They’ll need to have their own GBBC/eBird account, of course. No more counts will be made for the shared birds on your lists for that particular location.

You might need to register if you haven’t taken part in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Great Backyard Bird Count or other programs. It is advisable to register for an account on the platform of your choice in order to perform the count. Choose your tool from the Merlin Bird ID app, the eBird Mobile app, or ebird on a computer by visiting our How to Participate page. This is so that each tool is designed to guide you through this procedure with ease.

Bird populations are constantly changing. The intricate global patterns of species movement are too complex for any one scientist or group of scientists to follow. Together with data from other surveys, the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) participants’ information helps scientists understand how environmental changes affect birds.

Inspired by the success of the four-day Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society launched eBird in 2002 to engage participants in recording bird observations year round. In 2010 eBird expanded from its North and South American focus to invite global participation. In 2013, the Great Backyard Bird Count merged with eBird, which by then had developed more sophisticated tools for the collection, analysis, and display of data. As a result, the Great Backyard Bird Count now offers improved features, including the following:

All Counts Are Important

FeederWatch participants frequently give up counting birds because they think their counts are meaningless. Usually, they see the same birds each week, or they hardly see any at all. Although uncommon sightings and high counts excite us all, regular observations of common birds are crucial for tracking bird populations. The only way scientists are aware of a bird’s disappearance is through reports from observers who see none or very few birds. Learn more about why every count matters.

In case your bird feeders are empty, keep in mind that this information is crucial. When submitting your count, please check the box next to “I watched my feeders, but no birds were present” if you did not see any birds.

See Tricky Counts and Special Cases for more details and advice on count procedures.


What is the best way to count birds?

Count birds anywhere you like for at LEAST 15 minutes—or for as long as you wish. Keep track of the kinds of birds you see and how long you watched. Make your best estimate of how many birds you saw of each species. For example, 5 Northern Cardinals, 3 American Crows.

How do you estimate bird numbers?

You want to get a sense of what 10 birds looks like, and visually pick out another 10, then another, until you’ve counted the entire flock. Once you’ve mastered the 10-count, then try to get a feel for what 100 birds looks like, and break larger flocks into 100-bird “chunks”.

What is the minimum amount of time you should count birds?

How long should I count birds? Spend at least 15 minutes at a location. If you can spend more than 15 minutes, you’ll get a better sense of which birds are in your area.