One of the virtues of FeederWatch is its ability to detect long-term trends. The abundance of woodpeckers last year seems associated with a new abundant food source. Emerald ash borers, a non-native beetles devastating Midwestern forests from Michigan to New York, provide a near unlimited food source for downy, hair, and red-bellied woodpeckers and white-breasted nuthatches. Furthermore the trees killed by the woodborers provide snags in which woodpeckers and other cavity nesters can nest. So it seems the invasion of an exotic pest may actually benefit some birds.
Another FeederWatch project launched last year involved tracking the behavior of individual birds, Attaching tiny transmitters to wild chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches scientists were able to monitor their visits to feeders. More than 470,000 visits to specially "wired" feeders were recorded revealing a wealth of information about how birds use feeders. It turns out that during very cold weather, and despite the risk of predation, birds forage constantly all day long. Food is a powerful motivator.
Launched in 1987, Project FeederWatch compiles information gathered by volunteers from all across North America. Last year 127,210 checklists were submitted by 20,569 participants who reported a total of 7,308,691 individual birds. FeederWatch volunteers devote just a few minutes every week or two to identify and tally the birds that visit their feeders. No special knowledge is required because the material provided to volunteers include posters that facilitate bird identification. The best time to see the most birds at feeders is on cold, snowy mornings.
To become a FeederWatch volunteer, visit www.feederwatch.org, or call 800-843 2473 during normal business hours, or send a check to Project FeederWatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, P.O. Box 11, Ithaca, NY 14851-0011. The $15 fee ($12 for Lab of Ornithology members) covers all materials, data analysis, and publication of each year's results.
If Project FeederWatch sounds great, but you live in an upper floor apartment or for some reason cannot set up bird feeders, I have great news. Thanks to an internet-based feeder cam, you can watch live video from a feeder cam in northern Ontario. It features a variety of northern species, including evening grosbeaks and an occasional ruffed grouse, that we seldom see this far south. I try to check in every day to get a taste of the far north. Visit
Correction: Last week I listed a web address for getting more information about the snowy owl invasion. The correct address is www.ebird.org, not .com.