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Wild Birds Unlimited Backs Project FeederWatch 2019; Leverages Bird Enthusiast Community/Customers to Track Bird Data

Bird enthusiasts are encouraged to bird watch in their backyards and turn in data to help scientists monitor bird counts.

Bird enthusiasts who want to make a real contribution to science can participate in the 33rd annual Project FeederWatch, a winter-long (November-April) survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas and other locales in North America. According to its website, participants periodically count the birds they see at their feeders and send their counts to Project FeederWatch. Bird counts help you keep track of what is happening in backyards and help scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology track long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.

Project FeederWatch, which officially started on Nov. 9 and runs through April, is a collaboration between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. Wild Birds Unlimited is a sponsor of the count. Bird and nature enthusiasts are encouraged to participate in the effort. Not only will they have a chance to engage in their favorite activity, but they can also help the birds in a meaningful way. 

Project FeederWatch is more significant than ever, as research shows huge declines in bird populations. The adult breeding bird population in the U.S. and Canada, for example, is down by almost three billion, according to a study published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology earlier this year in the Journal of Science. This statistic has prompted the website, which has identified 7 Simple Actions everyone can take to help the birds. These steps include keeping cats indoors, gardening with native plants and watching the birds by participating in counts like Project FeederWatch. Bird lovers who want to learn more about ways to help their feathered friends can reach out to their local Wild Birds Unlimited store. 

“Project FeederWatch is a long-running citizen science effort,” said Emma Greig, the Project FeederWatch Leader at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Bird enthusiasts who participate in efforts such as Project FeederWatch allow us to see patterns that no single biologist would be able to detect.” 


Data gathered from past FeederWatch efforts have been used to address issues such as bird declines, invasive species expansions, bird behavior and disease dynamics. One example is the emerald ash borer, an insect that has wiped out many ash trees throughout the Midwest. FeederWatch data helped scientists understand how woodpecker and nuthatch populations increased in response to ash tree deaths, probably because those species use dead trees for foraging, Greig said. 

“Scientists have been able to study disease dynamics thanks to information gathered during Project FeederWatch,” Greig said. “There is a wealth of questions people can address with FeederWatch data because scientists can take bird counts and lay them over with what they already know about the birds. It really makes a whole new world of questions possible for researchers at Cornell but also anywhere. Any biologist can use FeederWatch data.” 

When new participants sign up to get involved in Project FeederWatch, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will mail them a research kit that contains a welcome letter, participation instructions, a bird identification poster, a handbook with information about bird feeding and more. Participants need to provide their own feeder, bushes, birdbath or something that attracts birds, as well as seed, and pay an $18 participation fee. 

To make the bird counting process more streamlined this year, Project FeederWatch is developing a soon-to-be-released FeederWatch app so bird watchers can enter bird counts on their mobile devices and absorb even more bird-related content.  

“Not only will this app make the data entry easier, but it will also create a more enriching experience and make it more fun for people to participate in this project and get more out of it,” Greig said. 

As if helping scientists help the birds isn’t great enough, Project FeederWatch participants can also enter the BirdSpotter Photo Contest, which is also being sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited. In the contest, a photo challenge will be posted every other Monday through March 12 on the Project FeederWatch website, letting bird watchers know what kind of bird photo Cornell wants to see. Bird watchers can upload their best bird photos and voters will choose their favorite ones. Two photo winners will be named every other week by getting the most votes and a Judge’s Choice. Winners will be announced every other Friday. Prizes include a $100 Wild Birds Unlimited gift card and swag from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 

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