Citizen Science

Be a citizen scientist!

Citizen Science is the opportunity for citizens to meaningfully participate in activities sponsored by a variety of organizations and contribute to scientific research. Citizen science is an important contribution to research – it is a partnership between the public and scientists that help answer questions scientists couldn’t possibly collect and answer all on their own.

Citizen science can encompass a broad range of topics, geographic areas, and collection and monitoring strategies. Citizen science projects also create an opportunity for young people to learn about and make a connection to birds and their habitats, gain science skills, and learn more about animal adaptations.

Some Citizen Science projects utilize smartphones and other forms of electronic technology. Anyone who likes to watch birds can participate in a citizen-science project. Think about how you may want to get involved. The list below does not capture all possible projects, but highlights many that vary in the mount of skill required. Choose a project that meets your interests whether in your own yard, city park, schoolyard, or an urban, forest, wetland, or desert environment.

Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Catalog maintains a searchable listing of federal government citizen science and crowdsourcing projects across the country.

North American Bird Phenology Program
USGS, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Between 1880 and 1970, volunteers recorded information on arrival dates, abundance, and departure dates of migratory birds across North America. Their observations are a historic collection of six million cards, illuminating almost a century of migration patterns and population changes. These records are being scanned and placed on the Internet. Volunteers are needed to transcribe the records and add them into a database for analysis.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Report bird sightings into a global online checklist program that gathers information on bird distribution and abundance.

Birds in the Hand
Bird finding guide is linked to the eBird citizen science project and provides a tool for users to enter data on bird sightings in the field. Users can upload species sightings into the app and transmit these data to eBird in real-time.

Great Backyard Bird Count
Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society
The Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.  For at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, February, participants tally the numbers and kinds of birds they see. You can count from any location, anywhere in the world, for as long as you wish. Scientists use information from the Great Backyard Bird Count, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to get the “big picture” about what is happening to bird populations.

Christmas Bird Count
The Christmas Bird Count is one of the oldest citizen science initiatives in North America.  Counts occur each year between Wednesday, December 14th and January 5th.  Counts take place in a 15 mile wide circle, following a specified route in the circle on a specific day.  There are also opportunities to count the birds at your backyard feeder.

Neighborhood Nestwatch
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Neighborhood Nestwatch is a citizen science program that teaches residents about the migratory birds in their backyards, while collecting hard-to-get data about urbanization impacts on wildlife.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Participate in recording the success (or failure) of nesting birds.

Celebrate Urban Birds
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Watch and listen for 16 species of birds for 10 minutes in an urban area and then report your observations.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Draw a map of your backyard, park, farm, favorite birding location, school, or garden to cultivate a richer understanding of bird habitats.

Report a Banded American Oystercatcher
American Oystercatcher Working Group, Audubon North Carolina, National Fish and Wildlife Federation
Report the location, color, and type of bands you observe on an American Oystercatcher.

Report a California Condor Sighting
Zoological Society of San Diego
Report and describe sightings of California Condors.

Report a Banded Sandhill Crane
International Crane Foundation
Report sightings of Sandhill Cranes wearing colored leg bands.

Report a Swallow-tailed Kite
Center for Birds of Prey, Awendaw, South Carolina
Report where and when you see a Swallow-tailed Kite and describe its behavior.

Report a Banded Tricolored Blackbird
Information Center for the Environment, University of California, Davis
Report where and when you see a Tricolored Blackbird, including the band colors on each leg.

Report a Whooping Crane Sighting (Eastern U.S.)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Midwest Region
Report sightings of Whooping Cranes in the eastern United States.

Report a Whooping Crane Sighting (Western U.S.)
Whooping Crane Conservation Association
Report sightings of Whooping Cranes in the western United States to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Bird Conservation Network’s Survey (Illinois and Indiana)
Bird Conservation Network
Monitor breeding birds following recommended scientific protocols. Prospective monitors should know common Midwestern birds by sight and sound and be able to make repeated visits to their chosen site.

Neighborhood Bird Project (Washington)
Seattle Audubon Society
Every month on the same day, conduct surveys on urban bird species at eight city parks in Seattle.

Window-Collision Monitoring (Toronto)
Fatal Light Awareness Program
Rescue birds injured after striking buildings in the greater Toronto area, and teach people how they can prevent window strikes.

Wisconsin Night Guardians for Song Birds (Milwaukee)
Wisconsin Humane Society
Building owners and managers, companies who lease space in larger buildings, and employees whose offices have exterior windows can take action to help prevent bird-window collisions.

Last Updated: May 17, 2017