FeederWatchers contribute to Cornell Program

Twenty years is a long time to be perched watching your bird feeders. But by the end of the upcoming Project FeederWatch season, that’s how long some participants will have been faithfully recording their winter bird observations and sending them to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Project participants have submitted more than 1.1 million checklists to date, reporting on the ebb and flow of birds in their yards, the spread of invasive species, and the impact of diseases such as West Nile virus. Project leader David Bonter says, “With 20 years of data behind us, we can be much more confident about defining population changes as either natural fluctuations or long-term trends that are truly out of the ordinary.”More than 13,000 people take part in Project FeederWatch, tracking birds at their feeders as often as once per week from November through early April. “There are about 128 people who have been with us from day one,” says Bonter. “Without our citizen scientists there’s no way we’d be able to gather this much data for this long over the entire continent. There are some gaps though, so we hope new participants will join us this year. The more people participating, the more data we collect, the more we can learn about our favorite birds.”Participants documented a continuing mystery: the unexplained and dramatic drop in the number of Evening Grosbeaks across the northern half of the continent. Last year also produced a number of rarities. Some western hummingbirds migrated to the southeastern states instead of Mexico, and one FeederWatcher saw only the ninth Common Grackle ever reported in all of Alaska. Overall, many participants reported fewer birds than normal at their feeders during the winter of 2005–2006­possibly due to a mild winter. What will this winter bring?People of all ages and skill levels are welcome to participate. The 2006–2007 FeederWatch season begins in November. To learn more about Project FeederWatch or to register, log onto www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw or call the Lab toll-free at (800) 843-2473. In Canada, contact Bird Studies Canada at (888) 448–2473. In return for the $15 fee ($12 for Lab members, $35 for Canadian residents), participants receive the FeederWatcher’s Handbook, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds, a calendar, complete instructions on filingreports, a subscription to the Lab’s newsletter, BirdScope, and the FeederWatch Winter Bird Highlights.“It’s our 20th year,” says Bonter, “and we’re counting on citizen scientists to help us track birds for the next 20 years­and beyond!”

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