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Studying Birds

What is ornithology?

Ornithology is the scientific study of birds. The information ornithologists gather is used to better understand how birds function, inside and out, and to learn how birds relate to their natural environment.

Why study birds?

  • Birds provide a terrific doorway into nature and scientific study. They are easy to see and study. They engage in fascinating behaviors and play important roles in the ecosystems that sustain life
  • Birds are excellent indicators of environmental health. Their changing populations often provide clues to the overall health of their habitat. Go to our Conservation section for more information.

How can you begin to study birds?

Join Continentwide Projects Studying Birds
Introduction to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s citizen-science projects, including eBird, Project FeederWatch, Great Backyard Bird Count, and much more. (on the Lab's main Web site)

Understanding Bird Data
Information on the types of data available, how to explore data (with sample questions and graphics), and a listing of the online data summaries available for each project.

Conduct Your Own Research
Use the scientific method, designing and conducting a research study to answer your own questions about birds.
Become a Volunteer or Professional Ornithologist

Where to look for online job listings and volunteer opportunities, how to become a bird bander or rehabilitator, and information on ornithology coursework and careers.

Featured articles from the Lab's newsletter.

Related Links:

The Birds of North America

The most comprehensive online resource for detailed identification and natural history information on the birds of North America.

Educator's Guide to Bird Study
Visit a different Lab web site for fun activity ideas and support materials to learn about birds and conduct inquiry-based research.

Home Study Course in Bird Biology
Visit the Lab's Home Study Course Web site to learn about bird behavior, migration, ecology, conservation, and many other subjects—in your own home, at your own pace!