Are you interested in learning more about birds in your area, getting outside, and maybe even benefiting bird conservation and research in the process? Consider joining NestWatch, a free program of Cornell’s department of Ornithology that allows you to become a Citizen Scientist and monitor nesting birds anywhere in the United States.
The official NestWatch.org website explains that Nestwatch is: “a nationwide monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds, including when nesting occurs, number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive. Our database is intended to be used to study the current condition of breeding bird populations and how they may be changing over time as a result of climate change, habitat degradation and loss, expansion of urban areas, and the introduction of non-native plants and animals.”
Almost anyone can become a NestWatch volunteer after learning about the program, its code of conduct, and taking a short quiz to become a certified NestWatcher. The only restriction is that young children should be accompanied by an adult so as not to disturb nesting birds. (Although this is definitely a great way to teach kids about birds, nature, and science!)
Once you become certified, you’ll need to start searching for nests – in bird boxes, trees, shrubs, and anywhere else bird-friendly near your home. The nest should then be visited every 3-4 days so that you can keep an accurate record of the number of eggs in the nest, when they hatch, and how many of the nestlings fledge. You can then report these data on the NestWatch website.
This widespread collection of data would be extremely difficult (or impossible!) for any scientist to compile alone, and so NestWatch volunteers are truly a crucial part of this research. By reporting data to NestWatch, you’re helping scientists to understand nationwide trends in bird distribution, behavior, and response to environmental changes. Plus, you’ll be learning more about birds and strengthening your bond with the natural world by participating.
In addition to joining NestWatch as a way to learn more about your local birds, also consider doing the following to benefit birds and their habitat:
- Build a nest box.
- Plant native trees.
- Use earth-friendly yard practices.
Now go out and find some nests!