Looking for a project that gets you involved in nature? If you’re one of the 80 percent of RVtravel.com readers who enjoys birdwatching, you might want to consider becoming a part of Project FeederWatch. This project turns your bird feeder visits into a citizen scientist event. Participation does not require a feeder. All you need is an area that attracts birds. You can visit nature centers, community parks, and even participate from your RV site.
In the winter of 1987-88, Canada’s Long Point Bird Observatory (now Bird Studies Canada) invited the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to participate in this cooperative research project. More than 4,000 people from every continental state and most Canadian provinces logged the number and species of visiting birds. Currently, participants number more than 20,000 feeder watchers.
How does Project FeederWatch work?
The schedule is completely your own. You can watch for ten minutes or ten hours. It does not matter. To participate you simply look at the birds on your feeder and count. FeederWatch sends you a form to log your daily sightings. When you finish, just go online to enter your day’s data. It is just that simple.
Your data goes to a North American database. That monitors more than a hundred bird species that overwinter in North America. Because it cannot be captured any other way, FeederWatch data serves as a valuable tool. Scientists review data weekly to study where species may or may not be wintering. They track the wintering ranges of species, as well.
According to Project FeederWatch, your data along with others across the continent help scientists understand:
- Long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance
- The timing and extent of winter irruptions [sudden change in population density] of winter finches and other species
- Expansions or contractions in the winter ranges of feeder birds
- The kinds of foods and environmental factors that attract birds
- How disease is spread among birds that visit feeders
The data is compiled and studied. This yields various reports published in scientific journals, birding and nature magazines, and newspapers. Moreover, the project’s annual publication, Winter Bird Highlights, reports the results from each season to FeederWatchers. First, you can see the top 25 birds recorded in your region and state. Next, you can review the bird summaries by year in each state or province. Lastly, you can view a participant map to locate other FeederWatcher locations.
The Feeder Bird Trends interactive graph ranks as my favorite. FeederWatch divides North America into six regions: Far North, Northwest, Southwest, Central, Northeast, and Southeast. This allows you to select the species of your choice and track the percentage found at feeders in any region. Tracking begins in 1989 and continues through present. Scroll down to find data in graph form that provides trends. Finally, you can even compare trend graphs of different species.
These are only a few of the interestingly informative pages of Project FeederWatch. This winter project began on November 1 and runs through the end of April 2023. I urge you to give it a try. Join the thousands of other FeederWatchers and become a citizen scientist.
Note from editor: There appears to be an annual participation fee.