Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Calling America's birdwatchers! Help with Project FeederWatch this winter

Sharon StitelerThe final great hurrah of fall migration 2014 doesn’t mean the birding fun and excitement will stop. Many of us have loaded up on birdseed and suet in the hopes of keeping colorful cardinals, bouncy chickadees, and maybe even a few winter finches around.

You can put your bird feeders to some scientific use by participating in Project FeederWatch. It’s a winter-long bird survey of the birds in your backyard. Participants periodically count the number of birds at the feeders from November to April, and the submitted totals help track long-term population shifts of birds.

The counts for Project FeederWatch are relatively easy: You count two consecutive days and make sure there are at least five days in between each count. So you could do it on a couple of weekends. Now, these counts are not like the ones a biologist would conduct where you itemize every single species. You can keep it relaxed by just noting the birds that visit the feeder during the day. Flyover birds do not count, so no Canada geese or ring-billed gulls, unless they actually land and eat some bread in your backyard.

You don’t need to worry that you might miss a flock of hard-to-identify sparrows that fly over your yard; you only need to check the birds that show up to the actual feeders.

You don’t need to count every single bird that you see all day, just note the largest amount that you see at any one time. So if you see eight cardinals at the feeders while you’re having coffee, then four at noon over lunch, and 12 more at dusk, you would put 12 as your final total. Not 24 because there could be a chance that the cardinals you saw earlier could be members of that larger flock at the end of the day.

There is a $18 fee to participate, but for that you get the materials to submit your weekly counts, staff support to help you with trick identification (like noting the difference between house finches and purple finches). It includes a gallery of the most common unusual birds to show up as well as a printed report of the survey results after it’s completed.

Are you uncertain if this photo is a picture of a downy or a hairy woodpecker? No worries, Project FeederWatch has materials to help you.The best part of Project FeederWatch is that the totals participants submit provide bird scientists from Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada an idea of species abundance and distribution. This is a concrete way of helping to determine if climate change is affecting bird populations or not.

It gives a more detailed account of common backyard birds than Christmas Bird Count or the Great Backyard Bird Count. It’s an especially great way to get kids in the home participating and noting what birds exist in their backyard.

You don’t have to be an immediate expert to participate, just know who shows up at the feeder. If you are uncertain about some species, there are lots of helpful tutorials. So consider using those backyard bird feeders to contribute to research and determine if wintering bird populations are stable, increasing, or on the decline.
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