It's time for another season of Project FeederWatch, Cornell University's premier citizen science opportunity sponsored by the Lab of Ornithology.
New FeederWatch project director Emma Grieg says anyone can participate. "Our materials teach what participants need to know. And volunteers don't need to identify every species they see. Even counts of cardinals and chickadees provide useful data," she said.
Thanks to last year's results, I can confidently predict what species you are likely to see. Assuming you have suitable habitat with at least a few trees and shrubs for cover, you can expect 15 to 20 species over the course of the winter.
Based on data submitted from 5,941 northeastern sites last year, here are the most commonly seen species. Each was reported from more than half of the FeederWatch sites.
Chickadees (black-capped or Carolina, depending on your location), dark-eyed juncos, downy woodpeckers, mourning doves, northern cardinals, blue jays, white-breasted nuthatches, American goldfinches, house finches, red-bellied woodpeckers, tufted titmice, European starlings, hairy woodpeckers, red-breasted nuthatches, house sparrows, American robins, American crows, and common grackles were the 18 most frequently reported species.
Last year was a banner year for nuthatches and woodpeckers. Red-breasted nuthatches arrived early and stayed all winter in many areas. Red-breasts visited the greatest number of feeding stations in FeederWatch history (64%, vs the previous record of 58 percent in 2007-08). White-breasted nuthatches, a non-migratory species, visited 88 percent of FeederWatch sites
Several other species moved higher on the list of percentage of sites visited. Northern cardinals (90 percent), tufted titmice (68 percent), and Carolina wrens (47 percent) appeared at more feeders than ever. And for the first time, red-bellied woodpeckers moved into the Top 10, visiting 69 percent of FeederWatch sites.