Participants from more than 100 countries submitted a record 147, 265,000 bird checklists for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count in February and broke the previous count record for the number of species identified. The 5,090 species reported represents nearly half the possible bird species in the world.
The four-day count marked the 18th year for the event which is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada. » Continue Reading.
If you peek into a wood duck nesting box during the breeding cycle, you might find 10 to 11 eggs, which is the bird’s normal clutch size. But you might also stumble upon a box overflowing with as many as 30 eggs. How, you might ask, can one duck lay and care for so many eggs? The answer is: she can’t.
These huge piles of eggs result from intraspecific brood parasitism, otherwise known as egg dumping. This is when a bird lays eggs in a nest that does not belong to her. Waterfowl – and wood ducks in particular – often engage in this behavior. » Continue Reading.
The number one reason to have a bird feeder near your home, of course, is to enjoy observing the birds that come and go and their behavior. And when northern winters are at their most severe, you may also be helping some birds survive.
But there is another potential and broader benefit, for both birds and perhaps your own satisfaction, that can arise from feeding birds: letting scientists know what you are seeing. Even common birds such as chickadees and juncos carry important messages about the health of bird populations and trends among them. The problem, of course, is that ornithologists can’t be in very many places at any given time. But bird enthusiasts can be, and they can function as “citizen scientists.” » Continue Reading.
Merlin, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s free bird ID app, is now available for Android devices. Merlin presents you with a list of the birds that best match your location, time of year, and description of the bird.
“Merlin knows which birds are most likely to be within a 30-mile radius of where you saw the bird—at the time when you saw it,” said Jessie Barry at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “It’s the first app to tap into 70 million observations contributed by birders to the eBird citizen-science project, along with 3 million descriptors of birds to help match what you saw.” » Continue Reading.
You’ve heard the question a million times: What bird is that? Now Cornell Lab of Ornithology have a new way to get an answer. Merlin is a free iPhone app developed by the Cornell Lab to help beginners and intermediate bird watchers identify 285 species in North America.
Merlin draws upon 70 million eBird sightings to calculate which species you’re most likely to encounter within about a 30-mile radius of your location at the time when you saw the bird. The app asks five questions about size, location, and so on. Then it displays a range of photos showing birds that match your description. The app also comes with more than 1,400 photos, plus ID tips, sounds, and range maps for each species. » Continue Reading.
For centuries people have marveled at the migratory abilities of birds, but new research is now putting numbers on those seasonal feats—for more than a hundred species at a time—using data contributed by thousands of amateur bird watchers.
In all, more than 2.3 million sightings were summarized to reveal migratory routes of 102 species in North America, in a paper being published August 1 in Ecology. The results provide a fascinating glimpse at an astonishing range of species: for instance, the tiny Calliope Hummingbird crosses the continent almost three times as fast as the Northern Shoveler, which outweighs it more than 300 times. They also highlight the immense scientific value to be gained from bird watchers’ sightings when they can be combined into a single large database. » Continue Reading.
The story of my heron nest may have come to a premature ending for 2013. I think the nest has been abandoned.
I don’t know if it was the days and days of cold, hard rain or some other natural cause, but the nest in the dead tree appears to be empty. When I hiked in the first day the rain let up and the sun started to come out, I spotted a lone heron sitting in a tall white pine along the shore of the pond – but none in the nest. Prior to all this rain, I’d quietly watched the nest from several different vantage points and had been able to see just the head of a heron on the nest. Sometimes I sat and watched for an hour and the bird never moved – ever alert. Then I hiked in the day after Memorial Day and no herons were around at all. From what I’ve read, it is possible that a mated pair will lay a second batch of eggs if something happens to the first batch, so I guess there is still something to hope for – if they haven’t totally given up on this little pond. » Continue Reading.
The 26th season of Project FeederWatch begins November 10, and participants are needed more than ever. By watching their feeders from November through April and submitting their observations to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, bird watchers make it possible for scientists to keep track of changing bird populations across the continent. New or returning participants can sign up anytime at www.FeederWatch.org.
After unusual winter weather in some parts of the country last season, many participants found themselves asking, “Where are the birds?” » Continue Reading.
Using BirdLog, a data entry app for iPhone and Android smartphones, bird watchers can now use their smartphones to instantly report the birds they see, from wherever they see them. With one click, sightings go straight to the eBird citizen-science program run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon. eBird takes in more than a million bird reports each month from anywhere in the world. These reports are used by a global community of educators, land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists. BirdLog was developed by Birds In The Hand, creators of the popular BirdsEye bird-finding app, which is also based on eBird reports. “Bird watchers have waited for in-the-field data entry for years,” says eBird leader Marshall Iliff. “BirdLog’s simple interface not only makes it easy; it maximizes the usefulness of sightings for birding, science, and conservation.”
Fully integrated with the eBird online reporting system, BirdLog allows users to select from thousands of existing eBird Hotspots and personal bird-watching locations, or to use the built-in GPS services of the phone to allow easy and accurate creation of new locations. Users can create lists in BirdLog even if there is no cell coverage at their location.
BirdLog North America and BirdLog Worldwide are available via the iTunes app store or at the Google Play app store for Android devices. A portion of the proceeds goes to fund research and conservation work at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
When bird watchers joined this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), they recorded the most unusual winter for birds in the count’s 15-year history. With 17.4 million bird observations on 104,000 checklists, this was the most detailed four-day snapshot ever recorded for birdlife in the U.S. and Canada. Participants reported 623 species, during February 17–20, including an influx of Snowy Owls from the arctic, early-migrating Sandhill Cranes, and Belted Kingfishers in northern areas that might normally be frozen over. “The maps on the GBBC website this year are absolutely stunning,” said John Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Every bird species has a captivating story to tell, and we’re certainly seeing many of them in larger numbers farther north than usual, no doubt because of this winter’s record-breaking mild conditions.” » Continue Reading.
It isn’t always enough just to watch birds — bird watchers are always asking questions about them too. WHY is that cardinal attacking my car? WHY don’t birds fall off branches as they sleep? WHY is bird poop white? Each year, thousands of bird watchers call and write to experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. More than 100 answers to common and occasionally off-the-wall questions are packed into a new Cornell Lab Bird Q & A app from Tipitap and available from iTunes for $2.99. The Bird Q & A app is a way to learn more about why birds do what they do. Although it is not a field guide, it includes hundreds of bird photos accompanied by sounds from the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library archive — the largest collection of bird sounds in the world. Questions and answers can be explored in categories such as “Fact or Fiction,” “Nests & Eggs,” “Bird Songs,” and “Feathers & Flight.” Example: Did you know that feathers are composed of a substance found in no other animal tissue except alligator claws?
After absorbing some of this bird lore, users can test themselves with built-in quizzes in “novice,” “skilled,” and “hotshot” categories. They can choose quizzes on bird facts, identifying bird species, or recognizing birds by their songs and calls.
The informative, occasionally quirky content is written by bird expert and author Laura Erickson, and is a complement to The Bird Watching Answer Book, from Storey Publishing. A portion of the proceeds goes into bird conservation programs at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The summer green has faded to brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows, soon to be followed by the dull browns and cold grays of our late Adirondack autumn. Alas, the missing cheery sounds of the robin will leave us wanting, but soon new bird sounds will fill the woods, fields, and our own backyards. So dust off the feeder and set it up outside the kitchen window. The winter birds will be looking for your daily fillings of sunflower seed, Nyjer (thistle) seed, and fattening suet! For millions of us, bird feeding has become an annual event that brings to mind the joys of winter when we see bright red cardinals, sky-blue blue jays and a whole host of other colorful winter finches. Birds and bird feeders adorn Christmas cards, note cards, and many holiday wrappings. This might give us all a sense of warmth and good cheer throughout the winter season but take a second to think about the birds and their daily lives in the sub-zero temperatures of the Adirondacks.
Bird feeding stations can be a good supplement to the various wild seeds, fruits, berries, insects, and nuts that birds will feed on in winter. Many of our year-round resident birds need to maintain a good layer of fat to keep them alive on those bitterly cold winter nights. And how soothing is it when you see playful chickadees, cardinals, and woodpeckers out your window on a snowy morning?
For many years now the Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Centers at Paul Smiths and Newcomb have put together wonderful bird feeding stations just outside their very spacious windows. This allows many visitors to come in, relax and watch the almost therapeutic coming and goings of the birds.
Well, now that you’re convinced on setting up your own bird feeding station you can aid in the world of bird study science . . . even while sitting there at your kitchen table drinking that second cup of (fair trade, shade grown!) coffee.
The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology(CLO) has been actively rounding up birdwatching citizens to participate in Project FeederWatch: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/ This citizen-science project allows CLO to gather some much-needed data on where birds go in the winter and how many birds visit bird feeders, among many other questions.
CLO says, “Project FeederWatch begins on November 14 and runs through early April. Taking part is easy. Anyone can count the numbers and kinds of birds at their feeders and enter their information on the FeederWatch website. Participants submitted nearly 117,000 checklists last season. Since 1987, more than 40,000 people from the United States and Canada have taken part in the project.”
We all know that many bird species fly south for the winter but there are dozens of species that will stay and endure the harsh winters of the Northeastern U.S. Current data shows a gradual increasing trend in some species and decreases in others. Why? Well that’s what CLO wants to figure out, and with your input of weekly sightings, it may help reveal the answers they seek.
There is a small cost involved but the resource information you get back when you sign up is well worth the small fee. If you would like to see the Project FeederWatch in action, then visit the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center sometime this winter and see how the staff and volunteers conduct their counts.
It should be noted here that bird feeding in winter is a great resource for both birds and humans and should be encouraged. However, as we proceed into spring and summer it would be a good idea to take down those feeders during the warmer months (April to October). Black bears, raccoons, and rodents can destroy many feeders left out in summer. Besides, birds can find plenty of high-protein insects (which they prefer) during the Adirondack summer season.
Bird and nature fans throughout North America are invited to join tens of thousands of bird watchers for the 12th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 13-16, 2009. A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation. Volunteers take part by counting birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the event and reporting their sightings online at www.birdcount.org. The data help researchers understand bird population trends across the continent, information that is critical for effective conservation. In 2008, participants submitted more than 85,000 checklists, a new record.
Participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest each year. Last year’s winners have been chosen and are now posted on the web site. Participants are also invited to upload the bird videos to YouTube tagged “GBBC.” Some of them will also be featured on the GBBC web site. All participants will be entered in a drawing to win dozens of birding items, including stuffed birds, clocks, books, feeders, and more.
Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 (outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473), or Audubon at email@example.com or (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.
A new atlas on the birds of New York reveals that during the past two decades over half of New York State’s bird populations have seen dramatic changes in their distributions, with 70 species experiencing significant increases, 58 species experiencing serious declines, and 125 species maintaining relative stability. Among the birds showing the largest increases in New York State are Canada Goose, Wild Turkey, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Common Raven, Turkey Vulture, and Merlin. Those showing the largest decreases are Henslow’s Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Brown Thrasher, Common Nighthawk, Purple Martin, and Canada Warbler. Resident woodland birds showed the greatest increases as a group, and grassland birds showed the greatest declines. These new findings, published this month by Cornell University Press in The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State, are the result of over 140,000 hours in the field by nearly 1,200 volunteers across New York State. The atlas, edited by two prominent figures in the field, ornithologist Kevin J. McGowan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and wildlife biologist Kimberley Corwin of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), was initiated by the New York State Ornithological Association and implemented by the NYSDEC, which provided the funding, management personnel, oversight, direction, and data capture and management. The majority of the funding came from the state tax check-off program, “Return a Gift to Wildlife.”
According to the new study New Yorkers have considerably helped bird populations by planting trees and shrubs that provide food and cover, supporting conservation organizations, and participating in cutting-edge programs such as the Landowner Incentive Program.
The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State will be an invaluable resource for the DEC and other state agencies involved in land management and conservation, as well as counties and towns who make management decisions on smaller scales. Data will also be used at the national level by federal agencies, non-governmental agencies such as the NY Natural Heritage Program and Audubon, as well as universities across the country.
The 2008-09 season of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch gets underway November 8 and runs through April 3. For more then 20 years participants have been counting the numbers and kinds of birds at their feeders each week and sending the information to the Ornithology Lab. Participants submitted more than 115,000 checklists during the 2007-08 FeederWatch season, documenting unusual bird sightings, winter movements, and shifting ranges-a treasure-trove of information that scientists use to monitor the health of the birds and of the environment. “Being a FeederWatcher is easy and fun, and at the same time helps generate the world’s largest database on feeder-bird populations,” says project leader David Bonter. “We are grateful for the contributions our participants have made for the birds and are proud of the joy they say it brings to their busy lives. Since we started in 1987, more than 40,000 people have submitted observations, engaging with the wildlife beyond their windows.”
Scientists learn something new from the data each year, too, whether it’s about the movements of common backyard birds or unusual sightings of rarely-seen species. Highlights of the most recent season include the largest southward movement of Red-breasted Nuthatches in the history of the project-part of an expected influx of northern birds that fly farther south when their food supplies run short.
Other northern species showing up in record numbers included Common Repolls and Pine Siskins. Among the rare birds reported was a Streak-backed Oriole in Loveland, Colorado-the state’s first report of this bird, native to Mexico. A December nor’easter deposited a Dovekie in Newton, Massachusetts, the first time this North Atlantic seabird has ever been reported to Project FeederWatch.
Long-term data show some species increasing in number, such as the Lesser Goldfinch in the Southwest. Other populations continue a downward trend, such as the Evening Grosbeak throughout their range. Once one of the most common species seen at feeders in the northern half of the continent, the grosbeaks are declining for unknown reasons.
Beyond the benefits to birds and science, however, is the benefit to participants. “Nature is not merely an amenity; it is critical to healthy human development and functioning,” says Nancy Wells, Cornell University assistant professor of design and environmental analysis. Her studies find that a view of nature through the window or access to the environment in any way improves a child’s cognitive functioning and reduces the negative effects of stress on the child’s psychological well-being. Wells also notes that when children spent time with nature early in life it carries over to their adult attitudes and behavior toward the environment.
Project FeederWatch welcomes participants of all ages and skill levels, from scout troops and retirees to classrooms and nature center visitors. To learn more and to sign up, visit www.feederwatch.org or call the Lab toll-free at (800) 843-2473. In return for the $15 fee ($12 for Lab members) participants receive the FeederWatcher’s Handbook, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds in their area, a calendar, complete instructions, and the FeederWatch annual report, Winter Bird Highlights.
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