Do you love bird watching but just don’t have the time, or finances, to take an exotic birding trip? Try birding in your own backyard. NestWatch is a nest-monitoring project developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in collaboration with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. The National Science Foundation is funding the NestWatch project and they’re looking for participants from across the continent to become active citizen-scientists to add to the nest-monitoring database at Cornell.
Why Monitor Nesting Birds?
To help better understand which birds are doing well and which species are in decline scientists need a wide variety of data to study. The data they look for includes tracking bird survival, and how successful different species are at reproduction during the nesting season. Their goal is to set up a standard method so average citizens can monitor nests, gather data, and submit it so it can be tracked and studied. It sounds like a fun way to get involved, get outside, and help contribute to an important scientific study.
What will you have to do?
If you decide you want to be a nest watcher, you have to create an account (My Nests,) on the nestwatch.org website. There’s no cost involved this is just a way for you to submit your data. This website provides all the info you need to get started and you’ll be able to learn more about breeding bird biology. It will require a little bit of your time to find an active nest to monitor and then to check the nest every 4-5 days until the young birds leave.
The FAQ page on the website answers many questions and will tell you how to properly observe your nest without harming, or interfering with the nesting birds, whether they are in a natural nest or in a nest box. Even if you don’t decide to participate in NestWatch the website has good information on nest monitoring in general and how to maintain nest boxes, incubation periods for different species, how to deal with predators and lots more good info.
What data’s collected and how will it be used?
The data you’ll be recording will be on: the location of the nest, the habitat, type of bird, number of eggs, how many young, and how many little birds fledge, or leave the nest. Apparently Cornell has been collecting data of different types for over 40 years on as many as 500 different species of birds. NestWatch will allow them to collect large amounts of data from a wide geographical range that will help them study the health and well being of wild bird populations. The data will be available online for anyone to see.
Who can get involved?
NestWatch is looking for anyone in the U.S. and Canada who’s interested in becoming part of an important scientific study. Sounds like a great project to do with kids or grandkids.
What type of birds is the study interested in?
NestWatch is accepting data on all North American breeding birds but the main species they’ve chosen to study are birds that are common to most of our backyards such as: Eastern, Western and Mountain Bluebird, Tree Swallow, House Wren, Barn Swallow, and Northern Cardinal, just to name a few. The nestwatch.org website lists all the Focal Species even though they also say they’ll take data on any species you record.
So if you’re planning on being around home this spring why not get out your pad and pencil and make a contribution to science!
For more info visit: www.nestwatch.org, www.birds.cornell.edu/
To watch blue birds, barn owls, phoebes, and woodducks currently nesting, visit a nest cam at http://watch.birds.cornell.edu/nestcams/home/index, it’s really cool!