Birds on the brain

An adult Red-shouldered Hawk. Photo: Brian L. Sullivan
An adult Red-shouldered Hawk. Photo: Brian L. Sullivan

As spring revs up to full gear, I enjoy taking runs around my neighborhood to enjoy the colorful bursts of flower and bits of cheerful birdsong. If you too have a soft-spot for feathered creatures, consider becoming a citizen science observer for one of these three great projects!

If you live in a city or town, the first project is for you! The Cornell Lab of Ornithology runs a year-round celebration of urban birds. Right now there’s a contest on to see who can spot the craziest nesting place for birds. The funky nests in funky places challenge asks contestants to peer into and over anything they can think of to spot a nesting spot. Any nests on top of a telephone pole nearby? What about in that old woodpile out back? A previous contestant found a nest inside an old tractor!

Sneak up to the funky nest and take a picture (without disturbing the nesting occupants!) then email your story and photo to before June 1st to be considered.

For birders in the city or country, sign up with eBird, a world-wide, online bird-monitoring program gearing up to collect tons of bird-related data in 2011. Consider contributing your time (or funds) to their amazing effort to catalogue bird ranges throughout the western hemisphere (and beyond!). Over the past few years, the number of observations submitted by citizen scientists like you has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2010 alone, they report that over 1.3 million hours were spent by birders gathering data for eBird checklists!

This year eBird is working to make the collected data more accessible, through animated migration maps and other viewing tools. For now, you can take a look at the data they’ve already collected.

An American Oystercatcher on the Atlantic seashore. Photo: AOWG
An American Oystercatcher on the Atlantic seashore. Photo: AOWG

Finally, for those of you on the eastern seaboard, from Massachusetts down to Florida, keep an eye out for American Oystercatchers with colorful plastic bands on.

The bands were put on by scientists to help us better understand the migration patterns and habitat of these birds to aid conservation efforts. The color of the bling tells you in what state(s) the bird has been banded.

To report a sighting, fill out this online form.

Categories: Animals, Biology, Birds, Citizen Science, Ecology & Environment, Nature & Outdoors, Science Education Standards

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