The ninth annual Great Backyard Bird Count, which took place February 17–20, set new records as participation soared across the United States and Canada. From backyards to wildlife refuges, bird watchers tallied a record-breaking 623 bird species and 7.5 million individual birds during the four-day event, coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. Participants sent in more than 60,000 checklists, providing a wealth of information unmatched in previous years. The flood of reports yielded what would have been otherwise impossiblea comprehensive snapshot of the continent’s birdlife. “With more people watching birds, together we discovered amazing things,” said Paul Green, director of Citizen Science for National Audubon Society. “In some places, observers described flocks of robins so large their combined calls were louder than jetliners, and good seed crops in northwest Canada caused several species of seedeaters to remain in sub-zero northern Canada rather than move to warmer areas further south.” American Robins are typically reported in greatest number by observers in the balmy southern states, but they inundated the Northwest this year, including Washington State, where flocks of 40,000 or more were seen and totals skyrocketed to 96 percent above last year’s count. In contrast, tallies of robins were down to less than one-half of their 2005 numbers in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi for reasons that are as yet unclear. Although most insect-loving birds travel south of the United States in winter, warm weather may also have enticed some swallow and warbler species to stay farther north than usual, living on a partly vegetarian diet. The number of bird watchers who reported Orange-crowned Warblers rose by more than 50 percent compared with last year and they reported twice as many birds, some of which were eating suet and nectar from feeders. Tree Swallows, which can feed on bayberry berries during winter, have broadened their distribution from 11 states in 2001 to 20 states in 2006. Adjusted numbers were up by 134 percent compared with last year. Complete tallies and maps are available at the Great Backyard Bird Count web site www.birdsource.org/gbbc, along with photos and narratives about other birdsincluding species in southern states hit by hurricanes, the stunning invasion of Snowy Owls in the Pacific Northwest, migratory pathways of Sandhill Cranes, regional rarities such as a Black-throated Blue Warbler in Connecticut, and continued drops in counts of American Crows, which have been plagued by West Nile virus. The web site also announces winners of this year’s contests for localities with the highest participation, and features some of the more than 3,000 bird photos sent in for the photo contest. “The success of citizen-science projects such as the Great Backyard Bird Count is built upon the generosity, skill, and enthusiasm of our participants. It was incredibly exciting to watch the number of checklists climb this year,” said Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Next year’s Great Backyard Bird Count takes place February 16–19, 2007. Sidebar: Checklist Champs for 2006 With more than 60,000 checklists submitted, the 2006 Great Backyard Bird Count ranks as the second-highest ever in participation, up 15 percent compared with last year and up a whopping 40 percent from two years ago. Three Canadian provinces and fifteen states set new records for checklists submitted. The following are the checklist champs for this year’s competition: Top 3 Provinces: 1) Ontario (1,309)2) British Columbia (424)3) Alberta (317) Top 10 States: 1) New York (3,978)2) Pennsylvania (3,173)3) Virginia (2,863)4) North Carolina (2,847)5) Ohio (2,833)6) Texas (2,754)7) California (2,550)8) Georgia (2,507)9) Florida (2,263)10) Michigan (2,071) Top 5 U.S. communities: 1) Fultondale, AL (505)2) Charlotte, NC (362)3) Mentor, OH (340)4) Cincinnati, OH (287)5) Richmond, VA (262) Top 5 Canadian communities: 1) London, Ontario (86)2) Calgary, Alberta (69)3) Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (47)4) Winnipeg, Manitoba (45)5) Campbell River, British Columbia (40) For a complete list of top communities in their states and provinces, and recognition for “most improved,” please visit the Great Backyard Bird Count web site www.birdsource.org/gbbc. Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Their national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in conservation. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a nonprofit membership institution interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.