5 Reasons to Join Project FeederWatch

Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Backyard birding brings many joys to our lives, and just simply watching and counting the birds can also help save them. Project FeederWatch is a bird feeder survey that began in the 1970's at Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario with 500 participants across the province, and has since expanded to reach all across North American backyards with over 20 000 participants. This citizen science project run by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada is designed with us in mind providing each new participant with a Reasearch Kit that includes complete instructions, a bird identification poster, wall calendar, and more. They've even recently launched a handy smartphone app (Apple | Android) making it easier than ever to enter and submit data & help birds right from your own backyard. We love participating in Project FeederWatch each year, and here are our top five reasons why you should, too.

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) with peanut

1. Play an integral role in conservation efforts
The goal of Project FeederWatch is to monitor birds in our backyards to help researchers determine a number of things including long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance, timing of winter finch irruptions & winter ranges of feeder birds, how disease is spread among feeder birds, and what types of foods and environmental factors birds are most attracted to. By simply counting the birds in your yard and reporting your data, you will be contributing directly to conservation efforts that help ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to share in this hobby that is so close to our hearts.

2. Improve ID skills
Downy or hairy? Purple finch or house finch? It's imperative that the data you submit to the project is accurate - no maybes or guessing allowed. Participating in Project FeederWatch is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself to fine tune your identification skills. You can do this through literature provided in the Research Kit, using region-specific field guides, bird identification apps like Merlin, or through a reputable bird website such as All About Birds. There are also several wonderful online birding communities who can help with identification, some of which include FeederWatch Canada, The Feeder Flock (for "millennial" backyard birders), and our very own group Ontario Birds by WBU Barrie.
Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) helping itself to seed from a WBU Ground Flythrough Feeder

3. Learn about biodiversity in your yard
While Project FeederWatch is all about the birds, participating can also give you a greater understanding and appreciation for the biodiversity in your own backyard. While spending time watching the birds on your count days you may start to take note of things you hadn't noticed before like plant species that birds are fond of, other wildlife species like weasels, voles, or rabbits, and how they all interact with one another. You may even decide to leave that old stump at the back of your yard that you've been meaning to dig up when you see how many species make use of it. This is also a great time to survey your yard to identify areas you could improve upon to help wildlife thrive such as adding native plants and water features, or removing invasive plants.

4. Stress relief
Project FeederWatch gives you a reason two days per week to take time to do nothing but watch and count birds in your backyard. Recent studies have shown that bird watching helps reduce stress, increase brain function, and improve heart health. In one study it was proven that just 15 minutes spent in nature has great mental and physical health benefits including attentiveness, and improvement to blood pressure. If this is a type of therapy you're in need of, try choosing your count days based on when you know you could use a pick-me-up.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) feeding in a snow squall

5. Learn to embrace winter
"If you choose not to find the joy in snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow." - Anonymous
And how true it is! It's easy to shut ourselves in through the winter months, retreating to our sofas & binge watching Netflix series after Netflix series until our brains turn to mush. Because Project FeederWatch only runs from November to April, it is great incentive to get out and enjoy the splendors of winter birding, and all that nature has to offer during this frosty season. Speaking from a personal standpoint, birding in the winter is one of the most rewarding experiences. You get to see flocking behaviours, caching, species interacting with one another, and so much more that is not typically observed in the warmer months. Bonus, you can be outside all day in the winter and not get a single bug bite. 😉

So, are you ready to become a FeederWatcher? Click here to learn more about this invaluable project and how you can sign up!

Happy trails!
- Shayna

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