Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Join a Powerful Force for Nature: Project FeederWatch

Evening Grosbeak by Jane Ogilvie

Ithaca, NY—One backyard at a time, participants in Project FeederWatch are doing their part to unravel nature’s mysteries—simply by sharing information about the birds that visit their feeders from November to April. The 24th season of Project FeederWatch begins November 13, although new participants can join at any time.

People of all ages and skill levels can be FeederWatchers and do their part to help researchers better understand trends in bird populations. Participants count the numbers and different species of birds at their feeders and enter their information on the FeederWatch website at .

By collecting information from all these feeders in all these backyards, scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are able to track patterns in bird populations and movement from year to year, all across North America.

Here are just a few key findings based on nearly a quarter-century of FeederWatch data:

* Populations of Evening Grosbeaks, once one of our most common backyard birds, continue to decline.

* Many species are expanding their ranges to the north, including Northern Cardinals and Anna’s Hummingbirds.

* The nonnative Eurasian Collared-Dove is invading North America at an unprecedented rate – it is now found in backyards from Florida to Alaska.

“By engaging the public we are able to pick up fluctuations that could be the result of climate change, habitat destruction, disease, or other environmental factors,” said project leader David Bonter. “These are large-scale changes that we would not be able to see without the massive amount of data we receive from our participants. Keeping an eye out in your own backyard can make a difference.”

To learn more about joining Project FeederWatch and to sign up, visit  or call the Cornell Lab toll-free at (866) 989-2473. In return for the $15 fee ($12 for Cornell Lab members) participants receive the FeederWatcher’s Handbook, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds, a calendar, complete instructions, and Winter Bird Highlights, an annual summary of FeederWatch findings.

Some regional findings during the 2009-10 FeederWatch season:

• Southwestern U.S. & California: American Crows, Downy Woodpeckers, and Black-capped Chickadees were recorded at more FeederWatch locations than at any point since the project began in 1987. Golden-crowned Sparrow reports were the lowest on record for the project.

Anna's Hummingbird by Elden Allen

• Southeastern & south-central U.S.: Common Grackle reports dropped to the lowest level in the history of FeederWatch. Chipping Sparrows were reported by more participants than ever before; also near record-high reports for Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

• Pacific Northwest & northern Rocky Mountains: The Bushtit visited more FeederWatch locations last winter than at any point in project history, breaking into the regional Top 20 for the first time. Reports of American Goldfinches and Anna’s Hummingbirds also reached record highs for the region.

• Northeast quarter of U.S. & southeastern Canada: Relatively few birds were seen at feeders last winter as there was a near-complete lack of irruptive winter finches and the most common feeder birds were seen in lower numbers than usual. The few species seen at or near record levels included Northern Flicker, Chipping Sparrow, and Eastern Bluebird.

• North and mid-central U.S. & central Canada: Counts of House Finches were down last winter, dropping to the lowest point since 1991. Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers were seen in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as this species continues to push the northern limits of its range.

• Alaska & northern Canada: Reports of Pine Grosbeaks and Common Redpolls were down significantly in the region. A pair of Rustic Buntings, a Eurasian species rarely seen in North America, was reported in Ketchikan, Alaska, and an out-of-range White-throated Sparrow appeared in Seward, Alaska.

• Hawaii: For the first-time, FeederWatch received reports of two introduced species: Red-billed Leiothrix (a babbler from South Asia) and White-rumped Shama (a flycatcher from South and Southeast Asia).

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