Monday, November 4, 2019

Project FeederWatch: A Simple Way to Help Birds

Blue Jay by Ryan MarcumIn light of recent news about the net loss of nearly three billion birds in the U.S. and Canada since 1970, advocates say it’s more vital than ever that citizen scientists monitor their own backyard birds.

Participants in Project FeederWatch at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have been doing this for decades. Reports from participants are building the kind of long-term database needed to detect shifts in the number and distribution of birds facing challenges from climate change, habitat loss, and disease.

FeederWatch participants make two-day counts each week from November through early April. They can spend as much or as little time as they like collecting data. Even counting birds once or twice all winter has value. The 2019-2020 season of FeederWatch kicks off on November 9.

While feeder birds are faring better than other species, FeederWatch leader Emma Greig says there are declines in the numbers of Dark-eyed Juncos and Blue Jays being reported. “These are common birds but over time we’re seeing fewer of them,” Greig says. Dark-eyed Junco by Ted SchroederWhile as many people are still reporting those species, the numbers being reported are smaller indicating that a declines are subtle, but widespread and steady.

Project FeederWatch is a joint research and education project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. To join tens of thousands of other FeederWatch participants, sign up online at or call the Cornell Lab toll free at (866) 989-2473. In Canada, contact Bird Studies Canada at (888) 448-2473, toll free.

In return for a participation fee of $18 in the U.S. ($15 for Cornell Lab members) or a donation of any amount in Canada, participants receive the FeederWatch Handbook and Instructions with tips on how to successfully attract birds to feeders, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds, and a calendar. Participants also receive Winter Bird Highlights, an annual summary of FeederWatch findings. Those making a minimum donation of $35 in Canada will receive a subscription to Bird Studies Canada’s magazine, BirdWatch Canada.

Photos, from above: Blue Jay by Ryan Marcum, and Dark-eyed Junco by Ted Schroeder, courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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