If you love watching birds and want to help ensure their survival, you may want to become a citizen researcher. Backyard enthusiasts can help study nesting birds by signing up for NestWatch, a program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The program helps researchers know more about the successes and failures of nesting birds throughout the United States, birds such as the American Robin, Red Cardinal, Western Bluebird and Barn Swallow.
The birds involved are likely the ones you see at your bird feeder in winter, or nesting in your trees, particularly if you’ve created a treed environment with shrubs and cover for avian inhabitants.
Your role is to monitor any nests in your yard, note the number of eggs and the success of hatchlings. The information from bird watching hobbyist is plugged into databases at Cornell University, helping experts there know more about how nesting habits are changing as a result of climate change, habitat loss and the expansion of development.
Becoming a certified NestWatch monitor is easy. You can get qualified online at the website, where you’ll learn how to observe nests and collect info without harming the nests or interfering with the nesting cycle. You’ll be warned to not visit nests in the morning, when the eggs can get cold if the adults are forced away and to not leave tracks that could lead predators to the nests. Be careful that predators such as cats, crows, and jays are not following you. Minimize damaging or trampling vegetation that could expose nests, NestWatch warns.
Kids can participate in NestWatch, but should work with an adult when observing nests.
With hundreds of people contributing, researchers are able to gather more data than would be possible without citizen help. And you’ll be connecting with nature in memorable and meaningful ways.