Citizen Science Program

Scientific Papers

How You Can Help

We rely on your support to conduct citizen science projects to understand birds and the environment

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Citizen Science Participant

The Cornell Lab’s Citizen Science program offers an array of projects that engage hundreds of thousands of people in recording bird observations—whether in backyards, city streets, or remote forests.

Scientists analyze these data to understand how birds are affected by environmental change, including climate change, urbanization, pollution, and land use. Participants learn about birds and have opportunities to see their own data on maps along with those of other citizen scientists around the world.

Project Highlights


eBird’s global reach allows birders to keep track of their personal lists and collects vast amounts of data that can be used for science and conservation. eBird can generate graphs, maps, and detailed analysis tools to help scientists better understand patterns of bird occurrence and the environmental and human factors that influence them. eBird is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.

Project FeederWatch

Each year, thousands of people in the United States count birds at their feeders from November through early April for Project FeederWatch, enabling scientists to monitor changes in the distribution and abundance of birds. Using FeederWatch data, scientists have studied the influence of non-native species on native bird communities, examined the association between birds and habitats, and tracked unpredictable movements in winter bird populations.


NestWatch participants help scientists track the breeding success of birds across North America by collecting information about nest location, habitat, bird species, number of eggs, and number of young. Launched in 2007 with funding from the National Science Foundation, NestWatch is building an unmatched database which, combined with historic data, is helping scientists understand how breeding birds are affected climate change, urbanization, and land use.

Celebrate Urban Birds

Celebrate Urban Birds is a bilingual project focused on underserved urban and rural communities. Participants watch for 10 minutes and report on the presence or absence of 16 species of birds. The project also assesses the value of green spaces for birds. Celebrate Urban Birds partners with thousands of community groups to distribute educational kits in English and Spanish, and to support local bird, habitat, and art events with mini-grants.

Great Backyard Bird Count

The four-day Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a global event, integrated with the eBird online checklist program. Bird watchers of all skill levels are welcome. Participants submit observations from more than 120 countries documenting more than half the world’s species. The count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab and Audubon with Canadian partner, Bird Studies Canada.

Habitat Network

Habitat Network is a community of people interested in creating wildlife-friendly habitat in the places we live and work. Participants map their property, explore how collective efforts to transform yards and urban landscapes into more diverse habitat may support wildlife, and connect with others seeking to make room for the natural world within residential areas. The Habitat Network is a join project the Cornell Lab and The Nature Conservancy.

Citizen-Science Research

Understanding changes in the distribution and abundance of bird populations is difficult because birds are so mobile and most species are widely distributed. Citizen-science programs such as Project FeederWatch are invaluable for collecting consistent information across large areas over time. Citizen-science researchers use long-term data, cross-validation with other surveys, and modern statistical approaches to detect patterns, investigate mechanisms, and understand changes among bird populations.

Research on Participation in Science with Latino Audiences

The Lab has done research to learn Latino communities’ attitudes toward science, technology, and citizen science, focused on six cities: (Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, New York, Miami, and Houston. The research included family groups and considered culture and context to understand Latino families’ values. The team plans to work with partners to create programs and a new model of leadership that will embed informal science education within Latino communities. This work was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Western Bluebirds

Researcher Janis Dickinson leads a long-term study of Western Bluebirds focusing on cooperative breedingsexual selection, and behavioral decision-making. Western Bluebirds are socially monogamous and essentially mate for life, but nearly half the time females lay eggs that are sired by males. Dickinson and her students look at territory quality, social environment, and the benefits of extra-pair mating, among other topics. The research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.

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