Cornell Borrows Bird Watchers For Sighting Study

Cornell University is enlisting the help of bird watchers to collect avian data. Photo Credit: Facebook

(ANIMAL RESEARCH) Researchers at Cornell University are going out of their way to be fair to our feathered friends. The school’s programs allow everyday birdwatchers to take part in their studies by supplying Cornell with information on bird sightings. The data collected can help identify migratory patterns, and other behaviors. Continue reading below to find out what can be accomplished with Cornell’s compiled data. — Global Animal
Cornell University is enlisting the help of bird watchers to collect avian data. Photo Credit: Facebook
Cornell University is enlisting the help of bird watchers to collect avian data. Photo Credit: Facebook

Ernie Allison

The image of Ivy League Universities has changed over the years, each one being associated with their own thing, not always related to academia. Harvard is known for having a Quidditch Team, Princeton for Business. Brown has a prestigious marine biology program. Cornell has the ornithology field cornered. 

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that Cornell is succeeding so well in their study of birds is their utilization of the masses. By teaming up with the National Audubon Society and eBird, programs like The Great Backyard Bird Count and Project Feederwatch have garnered participation around the world.

These programs invite everyday citizens to participate in scientific research.  Birdwatchers, whether they’re avid hikers or simply sit and watch their hummingbird feeders,  chronicle their sightings and send them to be indexed by Cornell researchers.

This information is used to track bird migration and habits, and then combined with past research to find and notate patterns.

But Cornell isn’t just about collecting information. They apply their findings to practical research. Long has the debate between bird-lovers and cat-owners raged about how many bird deaths can actually be blamed on cats. In the past few years, active studies have shown that both housecats and feral cats are the cause of more bird deaths than ever suspected.

Cornell’s research confirms these claims, and goes on to attribute this to the rise in feral cat communities. While they maintain that pet cats are best kept indoors so that they aren’t a threat, they assert that most bird killings are by feral cats. Ken Rosenberg of Cornell’s Ornithology lab blames the rise in trap-neuter-release colonies and urges people to show their disapproval of such programs.

When hummingbird migration season starts, birders have the opportunity to contribute to citizen science and see live information with the use of hummingbird migration tracking maps such as the ones below. 

This Years Migration Data
The data for this year is still being collected, but the different colors corespond to months while the shapes represent different species. Photo Credit: Wild New Jersey


Last Years collected Migration Data
This map represents the entirety of last years collected data. Photo Credit: Wild New Jersey

If you spot a hummingbird, you can record the species and your location and see what sightings other people have reported. Projects like this go a long way toward learning more about hummingbird migration patterns, which can reveal data about climate changes and other environmental factors.

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