…and hawks and spar­rows and sap­suck­ers. Here’s what you can do to help sci­en­tists track the health of the global bird pop­u­la­tion Want to have fun watch­ing the birds you love and also do some­thing use­ful for them? Join the bur­geon­ing ranks of ci­ti­zen scien

Canadian Wildlife - - CONTENTS - By David Bird

Count­ing Crows… and hawks and spar­rows and sap­suck­ers. Here’s how you can help track the health of the global bird pop­u­la­tion

If you are into watch­ing birds ei­ther in the field or from the com­fort of your liv­ing room or pa­tio, you are not alone. Based on sur­veys I have read, the num­ber of bird­ers in North Amer­ica is some­where close to 50 mil­lion!

De­spite all that love and at­ten­tion, our birds are in trou­ble… se­ri­ous trou­ble. While bil­lions of birds com­pris­ing roughly 450 bird species re­side in Canada, their pop­u­la­tions have de­creased by 12 per cent since 1970 (about when we started count­ing them in earnest). No fewer than 66 of our bird species are of­fi­cially listed as threat­ened or en­dan­gered by the fed­eral govern­ment. To help keep them as part of our Cana­dian land­scape, we need care­ful mon­i­tor­ing of their sta­tus so that suc­cess­ful con­ser­va­tion and man­age­ment ac­tions can be im­ple­mented. And as is al­most al­ways the case, pre­ven­tion is a lot less costly than a cure.

And that’s where you come in! Want to have fun watch­ing the birds you love but also do some­thing use­ful for them? Well, join the bur­geon­ing ranks of ci­ti­zen sci­en­tists around the world. Here are sev­eral rec­om­mended ways to do just that.


If you are among the mil­lions of folks feed­ing birds, con­sider par­tic­i­pat­ing in Project Feederwatch, held each win­ter. Jointly run by the Cornell Lab­o­ra­tory of Or­nithol­ogy and Bird Stud­ies Canada, this in­valu­able pro­gram al­lows sci­en­tists to mon­i­tor long-term trends in bird pop­u­la­tions by an­a­lyz­ing data pro­vided by you as you en­joy birds in your own back­yard from Novem­ber to April. If you wish to make just a short-burst con­tri­bu­tion, take part in the Great Back­yard Bird Count held each Fe­bru­ary by the Cornell Lab and the Na­tional Audubon So­ci­ety. See and to get started.


Dur­ing the win­ter hol­i­day sea­son, you might sign up for the lo­cal Christ­mas bird count (also in your area. Ba­si­cally, you help to count birds in a 24-hour pe­riod on a given day. You do not need to be a skilled birder to par­tic­i­pate; all eyes and ears are wel­come.


If you are a more se­ri­ous birder, think about con­tribut­ing your ob­ser­va­tions to ebird. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab, ebird has rev­o­lu­tion­ized the way sci­en­tists tab­u­late bird sight­ings all over the world and re­late changes in bird pop­u­la­tions and dis­tri­bu­tions to cli­mate and other fac­tors. Some ba­sic skill at ma­nip­u­lat­ing a smart­phone or tablet is help­ful. A word of warn­ing: it can be­come ob­ses­sive! Visit


If you en­joy peer­ing into bird nests, then the Nestwatch pro­gram run by the Cornell Lab may be more your cup of tea. Keep­ing track of bird nests in your area — their tim­ing, eggs laid and hatched, and nest­ing sur­vival — al­lows sci­en­tists to keep track of how our breed­ing birds are do­ing. See

There are myr­iad other ways of help­ing birds as a ci­ti­zen sci­en­tist too. They in­clude putting up nest boxes as part of the Amer­i­can Kestrel Part­ner­ship, par­tic­i­pat­ing in Cal­i­for­nia con­dor watches, vol­un­teer­ing in a lo­cal hawk or owl count, and get­ting in­volved in breed­ing bird sur­veys or bird at­lases for your prov­ince. Even sim­ply re­port­ing num­bered or coloured leg bands to the Cana­dian Bird Band­ing Of­fice pro­vides in­valu­able as­sis­tance to sci­en­tists — and birds.

So do your­self a favour: cut out this page and stick it on your fridge or book­mark these links so you will re­mem­ber to help the birds. No ef­fort is too small.

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