Bird Watchers Look for Changes Linked to Climate

Contact: David Bonter
Project leader
(607) 254-2457 * For release*: September
7, 2007

*Bird Watchers Look for Changes Linked to Climate
*/If you feed birds, scientists need your help

/Ithaca, NY/If you’ve ever watched birds at a feeder, you’ve seen
change numbers of different birds through the seasons and the
years. Do some of the long-term shifts reflect changes in the
environment, including global climate change? The Cornell Lab of
Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch is seeking help from bird watchers to
help answer that question.

FeederWatchers count the birds at their feeders each week and send the
information to the Lab of Ornithology. They’ve helped document unusual
bird sightings, winter movements, and shifting ranges of some bird
species over the past 20 years. To see the effects of global climate
change, scientists say they need new and veteran participants alike to
keep counting birds now and well into the future.

“Being a FeederWatcher is easy and fun, and at the same helps generate
the world’s largest database on feeder-bird populations,” says project
leader David Bonter. “Since we started in 1987, nearly 40,000 people
have submitted observations, adding up to well over 1.5 million checklists.”

Some of the most dramatic changes revealed by data collected during two
decades of Project FeederWatch may be related to changes in climate.
“We’re seeing hummingbirds turning up much farther north than usual
during the winter,” says Bonter. “Warblers and other insect-eaters are
also lingering longer into the northern winter, possibly because of
warmer temperatures. Bird count data gathered in the coming years will
really help us focus on these trends and what might be causing them.”

Recent mild winter conditions may be contributing to the northward range
movements of several nonmigratory species. The Carolina Wren,
Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, and Tufted Titmouse have all
expanded their ranges several hundred miles to the north in recent
decades. Some migratory hawks are also remaining farther north in
winter. Reports of Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks have increased
across the northern tier of the continent in recent years.

Project FeederWatch data also show drastic declines in Evening Grosbeaks
across the continent. While grosbeak populations are declining, other
species are booming. FeederWatchers in the southeastern United States
reported record high numbers of Yellow-rumped and Pine warblers. Reports
of woodpeckers of all kinds are increasing across the northeastern
quadrant of the continent. Northern Flickers and Anna’s Hummingbirds are
climbing up the list of the top 25 most-reported birds in the Pacific
Northwest. Twenty years ago they didn’t make the list at all.

The 21^st season of Project FeederWatch gets underway November 10 and
runs through April 4. All ages and skill levels are welcome. To learn
more about Project FeederWatch or to register, visit or call the
Lab toll-free at (800) 843-2473. In return for the $15 fee ($12 for Lab
members) participants receive the /FeederWatcher’s Handbook/, an
identification poster of the most common feeder birds in their area, a
calendar, complete instructions, and the FeederWatch annual report,
/Winter Bird Highlights/.

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