Oklahomans can join thousands of citizen scientists across the United States this winter and contribute to a nationwide perspective of our bird population. Spanning from one-day counts to winter-long surveys, three national projects allow wildlife enthusiasts to get involved at a statewide, local, or backyard level.
"The Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count and Project FeederWatch provide great insights into the winter ranges of many bird species and all rely on citizen science volunteers,” said Jena Donnell, wildlife diversity information specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“These three projects also coincide with great bird watching opportunities in the state,” Donnell said. More than 180 species of birds winter in Oklahoma; at least 80 of which are only in the state during winter months.
“This is a great time of year to grab a pair of binoculars and watch birds. Many species are easily attracted to backyard feeding stations and they’re easier to see now that most of the leaves have fallen off the trees,” Donnell said. “An added bonus to each survey is that you have the option of participating from the warmth of your own home!”
The projects are hosted by the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and a partnership between the two organizations.
Christmas Bird Count
Organized Counts across the State
Dec. 14, 2016 – Jan. 5, 2017
Steeped in tradition, the Christmas Bird Count is the longest running citizen science bird project in the nation. The experiment began in 1900 when Audubon members suggested a shift from a Christmas “Side Hunt” to a “Christmas Bird Census.” More information about this historic count can be found at audubon.org.
How to Get Involved: Sign up with the count organizer of one of Oklahoma’s 21 official surveys before the day-long counts, then watch birds at your feeder or join the field team.
2016 Survey Results: Last year, bird watchers could participate in 18 organized counts across the state. More than 185 species were documented, with two count locations logging 116 species in their individual “circles.”
Great Backyard Bird Count
Bird Local: Your Backyard or Favorite Park
Feb. 12 – 15, 2017
For 19 years, the Great Backyard Bird Count has been giving a “real-time snapshot of where birds are.” The first online citizen science project for birds, the Great Backyard Bird Count has more than 160,000 participants worldwide. More information about this count can be found at birdcount.org.
How to Get Involved: Watch local birds for at least 15 minutes during the four-day survey, recording which species and how many individuals were seen, along with how long you watched.
2016 Survey Results: Citizen scientists across Oklahoma submitted 741 checklists (new checklists are created by each participant, each day, and at every new birding location), documenting 153 species, representing 56 counties in the state.
Report What’s Happening at Your Feeder
November 12, 2016 – April 7, 2017
Focused at the feeder level, this count has provided 30 years of information about weekly changes in bird distribution and abundance across the United States and Canada. The $18 annual fee provides for a research kit with survey instructions, a bird identification poster, end of year report, and also pays for the data analysis. Order your research kit at feederwatch.org.
How to Get Involved: Purchase a research kit at any point in the survey, hang a feeder, and watch birds periodically between now and April, recording your counts online.
2016 Survey Results: Oklahoman’s participating in Project FeederWatch documented 74 species of birds using their feeder last year.