Kansas City, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) invites people interested in birds to join a Project FeederWatch kickoff from 9 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs. Visitors can learn about birds and help track songbirds visiting the nature center’s outdoor feeders through the winter. This citizen science program is an assist to ornithologists, and the skills are also useful for tracking backyard bird trends.
Project FeederWatch is a cooperative program organized by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada. Burr Oak Woods is a participating observation station. During winter, counts for the project are done two days a week. Visitors can assist with counts at Burr Oak Woods on Fridays and Saturdays. The kickoff event will teach participants how to identify birds and record observations. Visitors can record birds observed at the feeders at a podium set up in the indoor viewing area.
“There will also be some bird identification guides available, and visitors can check out binoculars at our front desk if they don’t have their own,” said Stephanie Kemp, MDC naturalist. “I will submit this data to the Project FeederWatch website throughout the winter season.
Observations across the nation and in Canada go into databases. Scientists use the data to track long-term trends for the distribution and abundance of bird species.
“Long-term bird counts by citizen scientists provide snapshots of bird populations in both the breeding and non-breeding season,” said Sarah Kendrick, MDC state ornithologist. “These snapshots assist in tracking major trends over time.”
Many bird species make long migrations from north to south in winter and back north in late winter or spring. They often visit backyard bird feeders as they travel. Birds who remain in local areas during winter also indicate trends. Bird counts can indicate habitat trends such as winter food abundance, nesting cover in spring and summer, natural food availability in summer, and weather events.
The Project FeederWatch kickoff will also help visitors learn how to track birds that visit their backyard feeders. Other programs also record data for science, such as eBird and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Birders of all ages and skill level are welcome to attend. Safety precautions against COVID-19 will be observed, including physical distancing and face masks.
Registration is required. To register, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZLk. To learn more about backyard birds in Missouri, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZLZ. Information about Project FeederWatch is available at https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZL4.