More FeederWatchers Needed to Track Generations of BirdsCornell Lab of Ornithology citizen-science project celebrates 25 years
Ithaca, NY—When thousands of Americans begin tallying birds at their backyard feeders next month for Project FeederWatch, they will launch the 25th season for this popular citizen-science program. The information reported online from across the continent helps scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology track changes in the numbers of birds and the distribution of species. Anyone with an interest in birds and nature is invited to learn more about the project and become a “citizen scientist.” The new season of FeederWatch begins November 12, but participants can come on board at any time at www.FeederWatch.org.
Because most birds reproduce yearly, FeederWatch data cover nearly 25 generations of birds. Keeping tabs on 25 human generations would mean covering about 500 years! Many mysteries and surprises have been revealed since the program began in 1987. Some species, like Northern Cardinals and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, are expanding their ranges to the north, probably the result of a changing climate and the alteration of habitat. The Evening Grosbeak, once a familiar feeder bird in winter, has disappeared from much of its former range. Meanwhile, an invasive species, the Eurasian Collared-Dove, has spread from Florida to Alaska in less than a decade and is quickly becoming one of the more familiar birds at feeders across the country.
“None of these important changes in the distribution and abundance of birds would be understood without the help of our dedicated FeederWatchers,” said project leader David Bonter. “By watching and keeping track of the birds in your own neighborhood, you really can make a difference.” More than 50,000 people have participated in FeederWatch, and new participants are welcome to join at any time. “The more people watching, the more we can learn about the birds that brighten the winter landscape,” said Bonter.
To learn more about joining Project FeederWatch and to sign up, visit www.FeederWatch.org or call the Cornell Lab toll-free at (866) 989-2473. In return for the $15 fee ($12 for Cornell Lab members) participants receive the FeederWatcher’s Handbook with tips on how to successfully attract birds, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds, a calendar, complete instructions, and Winter Bird Highlights, an annual summary of FeederWatch findings.As noted in the press release, you can actually become a FeederWatcher at any time during the season which runs until the first week of April, but why wouldn't you want to get in at the beginning? Our yards are very dynamic just now. The cast of characters changes almost daily and birds seem to be coming to the feeders earlier in the season than usual. That may reflect the fact that wild food is not available in its usual abundance. It promises to be an exciting fall and winter of feeder watching. If you haven't signed up already, now's the time!
Project FeederWatch is a joint research and education project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.