FeederWatch Helps Survey Health & Behavior of Backyard Birds

Join FeederWatch – Your Data Counts to Help Birds

Northern Cardinal and Chickadee visiting the feeder to be counted in Project FeederWatch in a snowstorm

If you love feeding wild birds now is the time to join the tens of thousands of others supporting the research and education citizen scientist project FeederWatch.

Project FeederWatch is a joint research and education project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.

The 2018-2019 season of FeederWatch kicked off on November 10.

Project FeederWatch kicked off on November 10 and is a joint research and education project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada
Project FeederWatch kicked off on November 10 and is a joint research and education project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada

Project FeederWatch

For more than 30 years, people who feed wild birds have been reporting their observations and FeederWatch participants turn their hobby of feeding birds – a hobby more than 50-million strong in North America – into scientific discoveries.

Their reports help scientists better understand what happens to birds facing challenges such as climate change, habitat loss, and disease.

IntoBirds is doing their part as citizen scientists and participating in this year’s FeederWatch.

We’re thrilled to contribute to this important initiative so we can more significant efforts to coexist with nature.

House Finches enjoying a backyard snack. Photo credit: Nancy Starczyk
House Finches enjoying a backyard snack. Photo credit: Nancy Starczyk

Two Vital Ways FeederWatch Helps Birds

1 – Tracing House Finch Eye Disease
The spread of House Finch eye disease is a clear example of the value of citizen science.

First reports of the disease came from sharp-eyed FeederWatchers in 1994.

The Cornell Lab has been tracking the disease ever since by collecting vital information about sick birds from FeederWatchers.

From that data, Cornell Lab scientists know the disease is spreading beyond House Finches.

“We’re finding other finch species are being affected,” says FeederWatch leader Emma Greig.

“This includes feeder favorites such as the American Goldfinch, Purple Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, and Evening Grosbeak.”

She says the pathogen that causes House Finch eye disease is becoming stronger and more dangerous.

These stronger strains are nearly twice as deadly to the birds.

2 – Insights Into Continental Dominance Hierarchy

FeederWatch reports are used in scientific studies of bird behavior to create a continental dominance hierarchy – which species displace others for access to feeder food.

Graphic shows which of six species is more dominant relative to the others, based on data collected by FeederWatchers. Graphic by Jillian Ditner, Cornell Lab of Ornithology science iIlustrator
Graphic shows which of six species is more dominant relative to the others, based on data collected by FeederWatchers. Graphic by Jillian Ditner, Cornell Lab of Ornithology science iIlustrator

More data on species interactions will be collected during the 2018-19 season.

The graphic shows which of six species is more dominant relative to the others, based on data collected by FeederWatchers.

The higher a bird’s score, the more swagger it has at the feeder.

“FeederWatch is easy to do, and participants tell us they find so much joy in tracking their feeder birds and in making a contribution to science,” says Greig.

Your Data Counts

Participants make two-day counts 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 is a valuable contribution, but many people count birds more often.

Join FeederWatch

Join tens of thousands of other FeederWatch participants. Sign up online at FeederWatch.org or call the Cornell Lab toll-free at (866) 989-2473.

In Canada, contact Bird Studies Canada at (888) 448-2473, toll-free.

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.

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