Project FeederWatch is my favorite citizen science activity. With basic knowledge of your backyard birds, a few feeders, a source of water, and a little time, you can contribute valuable information about bird populations in your area. Started in Canada in the 1970s, over 20,000 people across North America now participate in the program!
FeederWatch is a great program for people of all birding skill levels. You don’t need to know everything about the birds in your region. The Cornell Lab, who runs the project, has a wealth of information to help you make correct identification, attract a variety of birds, and educational resources if you are teaching others. I found FeederWatch was a great activity for my daughter and I. Even as a toddler, she learned to identify and count the common birds. We could easily make observations from our kitchen window. As she got older, we like to predict which birds would show up based on the weather. Warm, sunny days = lots of house sparrows. Cold days after rain = some “fancier” birds.
I enjoy feeding the birds in my urban backyard, but I especially like that we are contributing to something bigger. As a professional biologist, I have used data from projects like this to explore biological patterns across Oklahoma. I was able to ask big questions that would have been possible if I had to collect all the data myself. Although individual data contributions may be small, the cumulative data becomes an important resource for biologists studying birds across the continent.
I encourage you to check out FeederWatch. The observation season starts this weekend (but you can join anytime). My tally sheets are ready and the binoculars are on my kitchen windowsill!