Okay, it’s a click-bait sort of title. You’re not going to gain any profit, save learning about your winter birds, by watching birds in your own back (or front!) yard, but you can aid ongoing research about North American birds by participating in Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s and Bird Studies Canada’s Project FeederWatch. Besides, bird watching is fun and interesting, especially for bird geeks! Who wouldn’t swoon at viewing this handsome chap?
Project Feederwatch enlists citizen scientists (a highfalutin, fancy-pants term for volunteer) to regularly watch birds from specific spots–back yards, front yards, community gardens–from November to April, and then report numbers and varieties of birds who show up due to something placed to attract those birds. Appropriate bird paraphernalia includes feeders (duh…), water features, houses and the like. There are specific counting measures (easy to understand and follow) and the method for uploading to Cornell’s site is easy-peasy. The weekly time commitment is whatever you want it to be (15 minutes or hours-long), and with specific parameters–also doable.
The real treat is that instead of being a weird birder, you have a legitimate scientific excuse to watch birds such as this lovely guy:
Research on North American bird populations by information gathered from regular bird-crazy folk and has yielded vital details about altered migratory patterns and populations, spread of diseases (like House Finch conjunctivitis), and how and what impacts birds throughout the continent. The data collected assists scientist with the following (from Project FeederWatch):
- long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance
- the timing and extent of winter irruptions of winter finches and other species.
- expansions or contractions in the winter ranges of feeder birds
- the kinds of foods and environmental factors that attract birds
- how disease is spread among birds that visit feeders
And gosh darn it–birds are beautiful and vital for our gardens and the ecosystem as a whole. Why wouldn’t you want to learn more about their habits if what you learn potentially helps them survive and thrive?
My winter birds are showing up and showing off!
To participate, check out Project FeederWatch. There’s a required small fee ($18) US, ($35) CAN, which covers various administrative costs. Officially, Project FeederWatch started this past week, but jump in whenever you have the time and inclination–bird lovers everywhere will cheer and the fine folks at Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada will appreciate and utilize your efforts and data.
Additionally, if you love wild birds and regularly feed them, this timely Cornell’s All About Birds article is a reminder about the various types of feed appropriate for birds and is a good read, whether or not you participate in Project FeederWatch. It’s an excellent reminder that our choices of bird feed should be about their needs and not just what we think they should have.
Happy backyard birding!