- When to Watch
- The 8th and 9th of February only. Watch and count the birds in your yard at any time during the weekend.
- How long should I watch?
- Watch as little or as long as you wish during the survey weekend. Be sure to record the total number of hours you observed. Approximate as closely as possible. For example, if you were home all day, but only watched for five minutes every hour, your time will be 45 minutes.
- Can't Participate? – Stay on the Mailing List
- If you cannot participate this year but would like to be included or remain on the mailing list, please return the survey form. Please fill in your name and address on the front of the form and return to the address as indicated.
- What birds are "in my backyard"?
- Count and record whatever birds you can see from your backyard. This means that you might have a sighting of a bird flying overhead, or swimming in the river bordering your yard. If you can see it while standing in your house or yard, you can report it. If you watch from more than one residence, please use separate forms for each single location.
- How many birds to record
- Record only the maximum number of each species seen at one time. Do not add to your total each time you see a bird at the feeder. For example, at 10:00AM you see six Blue Jays, at 2:00PM you count seven, and at 5:00PM you count four, your survey total for Blue Jays is seven. Even if you did not see any birds, mark the survey card accordingly and send it in just the same.
- Additional & Unusual species
- Use the blank lines to record any additional bird species observed. Write-ins are often uncommon species. If you observe an unusual bird, please include a detailed description of the bird's appearance and behavior. Photographs are always helpful. Without this documentation, unusual reports may not be included in the final tally. View the section titled "documenting unusual birds" for more information.
- E-mail your digital photos
- E-mail us your digital photos from the survey. Although we still appreciate a printed photo with your survey (for archival purposes), you can now e-mail us a photo of an unusual bird you saw during the survey. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to put your name and address in your e-mail and note on your survey card that you sent a photo via e-mail. We hope to have on-line data entry and photo submission in the future, but for now we're not ready for your survey results via e-mail. Please fill out one of the standard forms for sending in your survey. Thanks.
- Birds you cannot identify
- If you don't know the names of all the birds visiting your yard, you can still participate, but please record only the species you can identify.
- Confusing species
- Please be sure you can distinguish between similar species such as the Purple Finch and House Finch, the Chipping Sparrow and American Tree Sparrow, and the Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk. A current field guide can help, and we have provided a Quick Reference Guide to help tell them apart. Note that House Finches are more common than Purple Finches. Also, please be sure to send descriptive details of any Chipping Sparrow or Cooper's Hawk sightings.
- Identifying hawks
- Hawks are difficult to identify and many watchers are unsure what kind they have seen. If you know you had a hawk but could not determine any identifying characteristics, please record it as "Hawk species". Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks are two of the most difficult to tell apart (see the Quick Reference Guide) and if you can't decide between them, please don't guess but instead record it as "Sharp-shinned/Cooper's Hawk".
- How to record squirrels
- Count squirrels in the same way you count the birds, by recording only the maximum number present at your feeder at any one time. Please be sure to put down what kind they were - gray or red.
- Survey results
- The survey reports are computerized over the spring and summer with final interpretation in the fall. All participants receive a copy of the results with next year's forms when they are mailed in January. The results will also be posted on the web site as soon as they are compiled.
- Contributions are the sole source of funding for this survey and make it possible for us to collect and analyze this valuable information. Each survey participant provides important data that supplies the information we need to determine what's happening to our winter bird populations. And your contribution is critical to making this possible. Simply enclose a check made out to NH Audubon with your survey. To make a donation with your credit card, use the donation form in the survey mail packet or call 603-224-9909, x310 (Membership Dept.).
- How to submit your results
- Please fill out the form completely, and mail it to NH Audubon at the
address on the form. Remember to fill in your mailing address and zip code
to ensure that you are on the survey mailing list for next year, and so that
you will receive the results of this year's survey. It is also important
that you record the location of your observations, especially if your
mailing address is different from that location.
Please be sure to include your name.
You can enter your results on-line or submit them by mail. To submit your results by mail please use our reporting form.
- Enter your results on-line.
- Print out a PDF of the form, fill out, and mail in.
- Request a participation packet by mail:
Call N.H. Audubon: 603-224-9909
Mail: send a self-addressed, stamped long envelope to N.H. Audubon – BWBS, 84 Silk Farm Rd., Concord NH 03301
Packet includes data form, instructions, last year's summary, and the Quick Reference Guide to commonly confused species. Include your name, address, and phone number.
Your data makes a difference! It takes many observers to provide simultaneous sightings throughout the state. Don't forget to report even if you have no birds. Every participant contributes to our understanding of bird populations over the long term.
Please document unusual birds that appear during the Backyard Winter Bird Survey. Your data becomes part of the permanent record of New Hampshire bird sightings which is a valuable historic resource. Rarities are always subject to scrutiny by future researchers and are most valuable when they are supported by adequate documentation. Photographs are also helpful.
There are no hard and fast rules but you should review any species not listed on the data card that you write in. Not all of these will need documentation — species like the Pileated Woodpecker, American Robin, or Wild Turkey are regularly seen in the winter and easily identifiable. But others are rare in the winter or easily confused with a similar, more common species. For example, the Pine Warbler is very rare in winter and could be confused with an American Goldfinch. Some species are common in one area of the state but rare in another. A Boreal Chickadee, common in northernmost New Hampshire would need documentation if seen in the southern part of the state. Other species often reported that should have documentation include Cooper's Hawk, Chipping Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Towhee, Fox Sparrow, Merlin, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
To document your unusual bird, please write down a description of the bird, including the size (compared to other birds), pattern and color of the breast and back, length of tail, and bill size and shape. It is not helpful to state that is looks "just like the picture in the book." Instead, tell us what you saw and why you decided it was not a similar, more common, bird. Notes on the behavior can also help. Include all this information, and a photo if you have one, with your survey form.
Examples of Good DocumentationShow/Hide Examples
Examples of good descriptions that document an unusual species from Backyard Winter Bird Survey participants.
- Northern Shrike
- "The Northern Shrike was quite distinctive…smaller than a Blue Jay and more rounded shape (like a robin). Heavy, hooked bill, dark streak (mask-like) from the eye back, and dark tail and wings. But, its actions really confirmed – I watched it chase chickadees for 45 minutes – no other birds ventured to the feeder except for a Blue Jay who seemed unconcerned." —Alice Custard, W. Ossipee
The description includes shape, size, and important field marks such as hooked bill and dark face mask that help differentiate it from the Northern Mockingbird – the more common species that is most likely to be confused with Northern Shrike. In this case, the behavior is also helpful for identification because the shrike eats smaller birds while the mockingbird feeds primarily on fruit and insects.
- Carolina Wren
- "Chickadee size, but rounder with long, upturned tail. Cinnamon back with beige breast, off white streak above eye, dark eyes, tan legs. Feeds at suet/seed ball every day." —Marilyn Blight, Hanover
The description of size and shape with the upturned tail is a classic wren. The color of the back, tail length and white eye line eliminate the House and Winter Wrens which are rare in winter. A description of the bill (long and pointed) would have been helpful to rule out sparrows (short, fat bill), but the feeding behavior helps eliminate sparrows which usually feed on the ground.
- Fox Sparrow
- "Large sparrow, gray and cinnamon brown above – eye and side of head gray, underside white with heavy brown spots. Hops on ground to scratch for food." —Rebecca Cummings, Nottingham
The size and description of behavior helps to confirm it as a sparrow (The Brown Thrasher, which is not a sparrow but has the similar cinnamon color is rarer than the Fox Sparrow in winter and is much larger). The cinnamon color of the Fox Sparrow is quite distinctive and the combination with the gray is unique. It helps to eliminate the Song Sparrow which is a common sparrow with spots on the breast that might be confused with Fox Sparrow. The heavy spotting on the breast distinguishes the Fox Sparrow from a House Sparrow which also has rusty and gray color on the face. The Hermit Thrush which is a rare winter lingerer also has a cinnamon tail and spotted breast but lacks the gray and does not scratch for food like a sparrow.
- Great Backyard Bird Count — national
- This national bird count is a project of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. It usually takes place the week after New Hampshire's Backyard Winter Bird Survey. Participation is done on-line and more information is available at http://www.birdsource.org/.
- Project FeederWatch — national
- The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology coordinates this survey in which participants watch and record birds every other week from November through March. Information is available on-line at http://birds.cornell.edu/, or contact Project FeederWatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, PO Box 11, Ithaca, NY 14851-0011, phone: 607-254-BIRD.
- Focus on Feeders Weekend — Massachusetts
- This is a Massachusetts survey run by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Contact them for more information: 208 South Great Road, Lincoln, MA 01773.