Citizen science is for the birds this winter

Male Pine Grosbeak at feeder at the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre (Photo Credit: Mike Burrell).

Many people flock to Ontario Parks every year, binoculars and field guide in hand, to view the amazing world of birds.  From the Northern Hawk Owl at Sleeping Giant to the Tufted Titmouse at The Pinery, Ontario Parks across the province offer opportunities to see both northern and southern species.  Whether you are a “bird nerd” or a beginner, here are some of the ways that your hobby can contribute to science this season:



Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count February 14-17, 2014  

This bird count is open to all levels of birders and is in 17th year running!   The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.  It’s simple to get involved.  Take a few minutes and create an account on the website, count the number of each species you see for at least 15 minutes on any one or more day of the count and then report what you count.  The count is not limited to your backyard, so you could even visit your nearest Ontario Park to do the count!  The Great Backyard Bird Count website has detailed information to get involved and participate.  You can even see a summary of last year’s results.  Remember: the count starts Valentine’s Day!

Mourning Doves at a backyard feeder. Unsettled winter weather often drives more birds to feeders (Photo credit: Mike Burrell).


Join Project Feederwatch November 9, 2013-April 4, 2014 

Male Hairy Woodpecker and American Goldfinches at feeder. The variety of feed offered (suet, sunflower and nyjer) is a good way to get a variety of birds (Photo credit: Mike Burrell).

Are you feeding the birds in your backyard this winter?  Here is a great activity for the whole family to get involved with!  This program is operated by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada and runs all winter long.  Once you register online, you will be sent a kit that includes instructions and your ID that you will need to log-in and report your sightings.  The website has lots of resources to learn more about identifying the common backyard birds as well as the type of feeder and feed that will be most effective in your region.

Check out this video with information about how to get involved and have a successful Feederwatch season!


Also, check out this official Feederwatch cam in Manitouwadge, ON to get inspired and practice your backyard bird IDs.


Join a Christmas Bird Count December 14, 2013-January 5, 2014

With Christmas Bird Counts occurring across the province, there are countless opportunities to get involved.  Check out this blog article  for more info on Christmas Bird Counts in Ontario Parks this season.  Also, visit the Bird Studies Canada website to find a count near you!


Report Bird Sightings on eBird

This online database includes birding observations from across the world.    Anyone can register to record their observations and this info becomes a part of a data set that can inform researchers, scientists and other birders to the presence or absence of birds in a region as well as their abundance.  There are lots of ways to explore the data including interactive maps that identify birding hotspots around the world and maybe even in your backyard.  You can even search for your favourite park and see recent reported sightings.  You can also sort data to tell you what is the best viewing time for different species in your area (or in your favourite park).  Below are the results of a query we made looking for reported sightings of Scarlet Tangers in Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

This map indicates reported sightings of Scarlet Tanagers at Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Source: eBird.


There is also an eBird app so you can report bird sightings on the go and map them instantly.  This technology allows you to instantly report sightings right from the trail or campsite!


There are lots of birding opportunities in Ontario Parks all year round.  Bring your binoculars and field guide and maybe your next visit will be as a citizen scientist!