Mission: Citizen Science

How You Can Help

We rely on your support to further our mission to understand birds and other wildlife, to involve the public in scientific discovery, and to use our knowledge to protect our planet.

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Citizen Science

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world contribute bird observations to the Cornell Lab each year, gathering data on a scale once unimaginable. Scientists use these data to determine how birds are affected by habitat loss, pollution, disease, and climate change. They trace bird migration and document long-term changes in bird numbers, creating species-specific conservation plans and targeted action to help birds find the resources they need to survive.

If you enjoy watching birds, consider harnessing your passion for conservation, whether that be watching birds at your feeders during the winter, monitoring birds in the nest, or sharing your checklists anytime, anywhere through eBird. You’ll be most welcome in our birding community!



Project Highlights

eBird

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

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.

Diversity, Distribution, and Abundance

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.

Birds and Climate Change

Climate has an enormous influence on where birds survive and reproduce. In the short term, weather can influence the timing of migration, territory establishment, breeding, and egg laying. Over the long term, species have adapted to seasonal weather trends. We combine data from citizen-science projects with long-term weather data to examine climate's role in the changes we are seeing in the ranges of some bird species, as well as the timing and outcomes of breeding.

House Finch Eye Disease

During the winter of 1993–94, people began reporting House Finches with red, swollen eyes. The cause was a mutated form of bacteria common in poultry. Within three years, roughly 60% of House Finches in eastern North America were dead. Our Bird Population Studies researchers launched a citizen-science program called the House Finch Disease Survey to document the spread of the disease and they continue to investigate why the bacteria has been so persistent and successful.

Data Analysis Toolkits

Using new techniques to analyze millions of data records, we study how bird distribution and abundance change through time and geographical space. We start by identifying large-scale patterns. This seemingly basic task is challenging because bird observations are unevenly distributed across the continent and are influenced by observers’ ability to detect birds. In collaboration with statistical and computer scientists, our researchers are developing novel methods to analyze data collected by both ornithologists and citizen-science participants. 

eBird

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.

Breeding Bird Atlases Online

breeding bird atlas pageWe create Internet tools enabling Breeding Bird Atlases to collect and display data online. Atlases bring volunteer bird watchers and ornithologists together to find as many breeding bird species as possible in intensively sampled areas throughout a region. Atlases provide valuable information that can be used to set conservation priorities, including designation of protected areas, and can help monitor the outcomes of conservation management actions.

eBird Trail Tracker

The eBird Trail Tracker kiosk is a useful addition to wildlife refuges, nature centers, and birding trails. On its interactive display, visitors can see which birds are being reported at the site, contribute their own observations, and enjoy photos, sounds, and life history information. The observations become part of the eBird database, which stores and displays data from across the world.

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