Nov 22, 2016 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2016

Did You Know That the Hobby We Love Can Help the Birds?

Pileated woodpeckers, cardinals, and other birds visit a bountiful backyard feeding station.
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You can turn your hobby of watching the birds at your feeder into genuine science by participating in Project FeederWatch. If you can identify all the birds that visit your backyard bird buffet, you're qualified to participate in this, a citizen science project of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, which runs every November through April. The data collected from across the United States and Canada every winter paint a picture of the abundance and distribution of bird species, and changes over time. The $18 participation fee funds data analysis, the website, and a year-end report, Winter Bird Highlights, but also pays for a starter kit for first-time participants. Does feeding birds harm them? Does it delay migration? How far has house finch eye disease spread? Are Carolina chickadees expanding their range northward? These are some of the questions Project FeederWatch is helping to answer. You can contribute to the data collection. Visit feederwatch.org for more information or to sign up.



About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson, III, was the team captain for Watching Backyard Birds from its inception 23 years ago through his death on March 25, 2019. So much of what he wrote is timeless and remains informative, helpful, and inspiring.


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  • I am excited to have my daughter’s tree this year, since my landlord has removed the lovely yew next to my patio, which was the only shelter for birds at my feeder.
    by pmalcpoet, Mon, 20 Dec 2021
  • Goldfinches will continue as long as Swiss chard is available. I'm watching one eating chard right now (mid-November in Vermont).
    by Brian Tremback, Sun, 14 Nov 2021
  • Birds are on the decline though sunflowers are rarely touched and for weeks hardly .eaten. I'll try a few sparing nuts on the table and a fat ball broken for jackdaws and tits but mealworms were a summer favourite being my go to choice
    by Paul Harabaras, Thu, 04 Nov 2021
  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021