Administered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Feederwatch is celebrating its 30th anniversary after being launched right here in Ontario back in the mid-1970’s. With an original enrollment of just 4,000 people across North America, today’s project is operational across the United States and Canada with an estimated 20,000 participants.
What is Project Feederwatch?
Operating each and every winter, Feederwatch is another method of collecting vital data about our birds by using citizen science. Just the same as we see other counts such as the Christmas Bird Counts and the Great Backyard Bird Count, Feederwatch relies on participants to report sightings in and around their feeders between the months of November and April of each year.
Much the same as other counts, this data is invaluable to researchers at the Cornell Lab and avian researchers across North America. By monitoring roughly 100 different bird species each and every year, researchers and biologists can extract metrics such as the effects of weather on winter ranges and total abundances of bird species over time.
What is the Data Used For?
As stated above, the data goes far beyond the total number of birds counted. While important, the comparison of historical data over time gives scientists and researchers the ability to identify trends, both positive and negative. Additionally, it helps researchers understand:
- 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
How Can I Participate?
The project is open to anyone who might be interested and is often a family affair involving children and grandchildren and birders of all skill levels. All new participants are given a research kit with complete instructions for participation as well as a handy bird identification poster.
The annual participation fee is $18 for U.S. residents and $35 for Canadians (by joining Bird Studies Canada). In addition to the research kit, your fee covers materials, support, data analysis and a copy of the Winter Bird Highlights report at the end of the season.