Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

As Winters Grow Warmer, Cornell Ornithologists Recruit 15,000 Birdwatchers To Document Avian Whereabouts

Date:
November 9, 2000
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
After analyzing data from 1999-2000, the warmest winter in 105 years, researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are looking to a continent-wide network of volunteers to answer the question: Where will North American birds turn up next? These volunteer "citizen scientists" are participating in Project FeederWatch, a winter-long (November through April) survey of birds that visit feeders throughout the United States and Canada.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- After analyzing data from 1999-2000, the warmest winter in 105 years, researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are looking to a continent-wide network of volunteers to answer the question: Where will North American birds turn up next?

These volunteer "citizen scientists" are participating in Project FeederWatch, a winter-long (November through April) survey of birds that visit feeders throughout the United States and Canada. The survey is sponsored by the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University, in partnership with Bird Studies Canada, National Audubon and the Canadian Nature Federation. Started in 1987, the project has grown to more than 15,000 participants.

FeederWatchers in 1999-2000 reported an increase in "irruptive" species (birds that typically spend the winter in the north but periodically "irrupt" into more southerly regions, probably in response to low food availability farther north) east of the Rockies. For example: o Common redpolls appeared in larger-than-average numbers even for an irruption year--larger than in any winter since 1994. They were especially abundant in a band stretching from the Northern Rockies to the North Atlantic region.

o Northern shrikes invaded feeding stations across the northern tier last winter. Nicknamed "butcher birds" for their technique of impaling their prey on thorns and branches, shrikes showed up at many feeding stations to catch songbirds, presumably because of lower numbers of small rodents in the fields where they typically hunt.

o Last winter's FeederWatch data also indicated a scarcity in ground-feeding birds such as Harris's sparrows. The lower abundances were especially notable in the mid- and south-central regions, possibly related to drought. Most ground-feeding species rely on seeds produced by smaller plants (grasses and forbs), and production of these seeds can be easily affected by rainfall--or a lack of it.

o Based on long-term data from FeederWatchers, a paper published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology documented for the first time the cyclical changes in varied thrush abundance. FeederWatch data revealed that, on average, this species peaks in abundance every second year, perhaps in response to acorn availability in winter.

o Another discovery appeared in The Condor, a scientific journal published by the Cooper Ornithological Society. The data showed that although the common redpoll is an irruptive migrant probably forced south by lack of food, the redpolls' movements are like those of any other winter migrant when the birds irrupt southward. Findings such as these help scientists better understand the lives of bird species that would otherwise be a mystery because they live far to the north, in regions not typically covered by other monitoring programs.

FeederWatchers also play a critical role in tracking outbreaks of avian diseases. In 1994, Cornell Lab researchers asked FeederWatchers to help track the spread of a disease previously almost unknown in wild birds. This disease, called mycoplasmal conjunctivitis (often referred to as house finch eye disease because it primarily affects that species) results in swollen, crusty eyes, frequently followed by blindness and death as the birds are caught by predators or eventually starve. Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cornell ornithologists explained how an infectious disease might become the main factor regulating the abundance wild animals such as finches. Starting this winter, researchers are asking FeederWatchers to help with the House Finch Disease Survey, now newly expanded, to learn whether the disease has crossed the Great Plains and started to infect house finches in western North America. "FeederWatchers are the eyes and ears for scientists studying North American feeder bird populations," says Wesley Hochachka, assistant director of the Cornell Lab's Bird Population Studies program and a co-author of many FeederWatch-related scientific papers. "There's simply no other way to acquire data about continentwide populations throughout the entire winter. These data are critical in helping us understand both long- and short-term changes in bird populations and their environments."

A nominal fee of $15 is requested to help cover costs of data processing as well as the posters, newsletters and other materials FeederWatchers receive. Volunteer citizen-scientists can sign up for Project FeederWatch by calling the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at 800/843--2473 in the United States (in Canada, call Bird Studies Canada at 888/448-2473) or by visiting the web site: http://birds.cornell.edu/pfw/ Volunteers also can sign up by mailing a check to "Cornell Lab of Ornithology" at this address: PFW/Cornell Lab of Ornithology, P.O. Box 11 Ithaca, NY 14850.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "As Winters Grow Warmer, Cornell Ornithologists Recruit 15,000 Birdwatchers To Document Avian Whereabouts." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 November 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/11/001101065208.htm>.
Cornell University. (2000, November 9). As Winters Grow Warmer, Cornell Ornithologists Recruit 15,000 Birdwatchers To Document Avian Whereabouts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/11/001101065208.htm
Cornell University. "As Winters Grow Warmer, Cornell Ornithologists Recruit 15,000 Birdwatchers To Document Avian Whereabouts." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/11/001101065208.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) It took Houston firefighters more than an hour to free a puppy who got its head stuck in a tire. (Aug. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Great White Shark Spotted Off Massachusetts Coast

Great White Shark Spotted Off Massachusetts Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) A great white shark is spotted off the shore at Duxbury beach in Massachusetts forcing beach goers out of the water. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elk Wanders Into German Office Building

Raw: Elk Wanders Into German Office Building

AP (Aug. 25, 2014) A young bull elk wandered inside the office building of a company in Dresden, Germany on Monday. The elk became trapped between a wall and glass windows while rescue workers tried to rescue him safely. (Aug. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins