TREASURE COAST - On Oct. 17, birders around the world will view and photograph birds as part of what is called the October Big Day.

The goal is to gather information about bird populations worldwide, for use by both scientists and the general public.

You don’t need to be a bird expert to participate, and you don’t need to travel or stay out all day. Cornell University organizers say that even 10 minutes spent documenting birds in your backyard will help.

During the October Big Day 2019, more than 20,000 participants submitted 42,700 checklists with 6,709 species. Organizers aim to have more than 25,000 people submit eBird checklists for the October Big Day 2020, which runs from midnight to midnight in your local time zone.

The hub for the event is the eBird website, managed by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. More than 100 million bird sightings are contributed annually by eBirders around the world.

To participate, start by signing up for a free eBird account, which will give you immediate access to a bird checklist program used by birders around the world. Then just start viewing and, if possible, photographing birds.

You can enter information directly at the eBird website, or download their free app to use while in the field.

To create a free eBird account that helps you upload photos and lists, visit https://secure.birds.cornell.edu/cassso/account/create.

If you are new to birding or documenting the birds you see and want to make your checklists more valuable for science and conservation, you can take the free eBird Essentials course, which will walk you through the steps and provide additional tools and expert advice.

Take the free eBird course at https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/product/ebird-essentials/.

For help identifying species, use Cornell Lab’s free Merlin Bird ID app, which you can download at https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/.

With your eBird account set up, you can watch the sightings as they are uploaded around the world. Statistics will be updated in real-time on the October Big Day page. Check to see what birds others are seeing near your home or in any of 150 participating countries.

In addition to uploading your bird sightings via eBird, the Cornell University organizers ask that participants share what you see on social media with the hashtag #octoberbigday.

If you will be participating on the Treasure Coast and want to coordinate your activities with others, email Juanita Baker of Pelican Island Audubon Society at FlBirdExp@gmail.com. Dr. Baker is available to provide tips and recommendations of good birding sites.

For more information and links to all the tools mentioned in this article and more, visit https://ebird.org/home and click on “October Big Day 2020”.

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