The Cornell Lab Bird Academy Discussion Groups Joy of Birdwatching Activities: Helping Birds in Your World

    • Kathleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity #1 - Birds have always given me great joy. I believe my love for birds and birding are inherited. As a small child my parents would take us to Wildlife Refuges and teach us the importance of all nature. The Do's and Don'ts .  Respect and appreciate . That feeling of excitement as we prepared for our outings continue today. I am blessed to have  a wonderful home  where i am able to enjoy birding everyday. Every season brings new  opportunities.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Activity#2 - Thank you for providing me with new tools in my birding journey. I will be joining EBIRD!  I am not only a bird watcher-  I am a bird watcher who wishes to continue my love for birds by learning  how to help maintain a healthy enivirorment for our feathered friends.
    • Shelby
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      My favorite coffee lately is a forest-friendly, shade grown brand called “LifeBoost.” Honestly, it might be one the tastiest beans we have ever had. It’s a small step that I didn’t realize I was taking in protecting our beautiful, feathery friends… but now that I know I will never go back! One thing I would like to do better is reduce the amount of single-use plastics we use as a family. :)
    • Angeleque
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      We read through the comments. People are doing lots of wonderful things to help birds. We do have some commentary, however, about the science. We are also behavioral scientists. We wonder how the numbers are determined to compare current populations with those of 50 years ago. And, how would you actually gather data to know that a billion birds are killed by cats. Is that extrapolation? And what might that process  be..statistically? It is great to use citizen scientist, but aren't there serious concerns about the reliability and validity of the data collection? Are there psychometrically sound integrity checks? It would be interesting to hear about the actual science--data collection techniques etc. For example, when we lived in Mississippi, there was )(still is as far as we know) a hummingbird sanctuary. Every year, there was tagging, monitoring, measuring etc. real science. It's just that sometimes when they authors write that the numbers are based on citizen science, we sort of, in a very friendly way, have questions about the veracity.   We do really like Dr. Kevin McGowan. He is our favorite ornithologist. Ok, he's the only one we know. But, we bet he would still be our favorite! His love of birds and the science of ornithology is incredibly infectious.
      • Elizabeth
        Bird Academy
        Hi Angeleque. Thanks for reaching out. You raise some interesting points. You can find more information about the data collection methods and statistical calculations by reading the original article published in Science. It is available here. If you do not have access to the full article, you can read a draft version here. The calculation about bird mortality by cats comes from this article in Nature. The authors conducted a systematic review to determine the impact of cats on wildlife. Finally, The Washington Post recently highlighted a study showing citizen scientists produce accurate data. Find it here. The research paper itself is also available at this link. I hope these resources answer your questions and help you feel more confident in the data presented. The decline of birds is an ongoing challenge of our times.
    • Rory
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I enjoyed this topic, i have my camera and binoculars beside me everyday and take them every where i go. I try and bird watch at least once a day even if it is 30 min. I like sometimes you can identify a bird by the way they fly. Will definately do more courses, the bird of prey one is next. Also i literally just joined Birds of Ontario group
    • Andrea
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 1: I have loved birds for a long time and see the interconnection with them and our ecosystems, but it was very interesting to learn more about their importance in dispersing seeds for many plants and trees to reproduce. Our amazing earth and all that is on it was beautifully and wisely created. Activity 2: I started using less plastic by avoiding plastic bags for kitchen waste. I am doing this by composting in a local program in the area where I live. I use reusable bags for grocery shopping, and I started to buy more in the bulk section, where I bring my containers from home, so I avoid consuming nuts, coffee, and legumes that come in plastic containers. I try to buy mostly organic. I live in a second floor of a building. The first two years living here we would hear a bird colliding with our windows once in a while, so I printed some owls and glued them inside in certain parts of the glass. It has improved the problem significantly. Although it does not look very nice it is an easy solution until I get some window stickers more appropriate to address the issue. Also, although the lesson did not mention... I am more aware of turning off or dimming my lights at night in migration season. Activity 4: I will join a birding group where I live to connect with more birders in my area. I will eBird more so I can contribute with my sights to the community of scientists. I will buy reusable utensils to carry with me when I am outside so I can refuse disposable cutlery if I eat out.
    • Activity 2: We have been working with students to use iNaturalist to support Citizen Science. The students get pretty excited when they realize how easy it is to take a picture of something, submit it to iNaturalist and then get an indication of what it may be. We encourage the students to get as many observations as they can, sort of make it a game. It's always fun to watch them compare what they saw and see who found the weirdest looking insect or most beautiful plant.
    • Tracy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 1:  Birds are my main animal enjoyment as I do not have any domestic pets. They bring me so much joy. This course has reminded me of their environmental and ecological importance, too. Activity 2: I could make my windows safer. I currently have shiny sun catchers handing in them, which has helped a lot, but isn’t perfect. I’m also in the early stages of planting native plants in my yard for birds and pollinators. Eventually, I hope to remove at least 1/2 of our lawn area and replace with native plants. It’s a work in progress. I’m not a “zero waste” person, however our household has significantly reduced our use of plastic, including switching to bar shampoo, conditioner,  body/hand soaps,  no packaging dishwasher detergent, and we use laundry detergent sheets. There’s always more that I can do, and I am motivated to do so.   Activity 4: This course has totally fueled my journey of beginning birding. It’s been a pleasure and I look forward to learning more.
    • Alicia
      Participant
      Chirps: 24
      Activity #1: Birds are evolutionary wonders. I marvel at their ability to adapt to so many environments and so many lifestyles. Nothing is more fabulous than being able to fly and there is no cooler evolutionary story than one that shows descent from dinosaurs. I have often said that if I could spend a day as another animal, it would be a bird, specifically an owl. There is nothing like waking up to the singing and calling of birds. They make me happy. But more than that, they play critical roles in ecosystems because many other organisms depend on them. This course has made me more aware of the variety of birds that are around me every day.
    • Delbert
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Getting a mini forest started. Used local trees that supply food for birds and also local log trees.20220531_162838
    • Silverio Menchú
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Quiero agradecer por este maravilloso curso, ha complementado de una manera muy especial y técnica mi admiración por estos seres especiales.  Los inicié a apreciar cuando tenía pericas y finches, les preparé una jaula especial pero me di cuenta que no había nada mejor que verlos en libertad, me percepción ha cambiado y hoy voy al bosque a buscarlas y disfrutarlas.   He planeado desarrollar un proyecto comunitario de aventurismo en mi comunidad ya que hay bosque ancestrales y espero infundir en la niñez y la juventud la LA ALEGRIA DE OBSERVAR AVES.   Todo esto me ha hecho pensar en la necesidad de cambiar mis hábitos y formar de relacionarme con mi entorno y la naturaleza.
    • Sarah
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity 1: I love birdsong and observing bird behavior. Activity 2: We have a large veganic garden. That means we don’t use pesticides or any animal products. We grow native flowers to attract beneficial insects. It is extra work not using chemicals, but worth it to give us this joyous lifestyle. While I work in the garden, I hear birds singing. This evening, I listened to the beautiful birdsong of the wood thrust just before sunset. Activity 3: When I was 28 (almost 40 years ago), I moved from the Washington D.C. area to a rural county in the Appalachian Mountains. I was amazed to see goldfinches and bluebirds in real life. I had only seen them in World Book encyclopedia before. I felt like I was in heaven. There are still a lot of birds in this area, but I am sad to hear of their decline. That is one reason we live a vegan lifestyle, so our life causes the least amount of harm. Activity 4: I am becoming a Master Naturalist, so I can make a difference, if possible.
    • Cheryl
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      Activity 1: Like the title of this course birds are joyful. I have loved watching and listening to them all my life. I smiled every time my husband asked, “What’s that bird?” Now, he’s recognizing them and we are enjoying adding birdwatching to our hiking activities. Activity 2: As for steps to help the birds: *I enrolled in the Feeder Watch program this year, as well as, the GBBC, and most likely will do it again next year. I enjoyed it. *When I moved to this house 25 years ago, I dug up all the grass and planted gardens in the front and back. The birds love it. Lots of place for the sparrows to hide, many branches for the songbirds to sing from and plenty of trunks for the nuthatch and woodpecker to climb. *I am also a big fan of wild bees having documented over 40 species in my neighbourhood, so I don’t use pesticides. *I don’t have any cats, just fish in my pond. The birds love the pond, they even bathe in it during the winter. See the photographs below of a female Northern Cardinal and an American Robin using the pond this winter. *I don’t drink coffee, but my husband does, so I’ll look into that. *I replaced all my windows. *Like most people, we are conscience of all that plastic and using our own bags when shopping. IMG_7998 IMG_7864
    • Vivian
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      #3 - Living in the Tampa Bay Area in Florida, in the 80s and 90s, I used to always mark the beginning of early spring when I heard the annual call of the Eastern Whip-poor-will.  I haven’t heard the call of the Whip-poor-will since the early 2000s and it saddens me that Florida’s loss of habitat and byproducts of suburban lawns have driven away this wonderful bird. #4 - Birdwatching has opened a new world of learning and community, and I plan to become active in my local Audubon chapter.
    • Activity #1 - Birds have held a prominent place in my life for some time. Having shared my life with parrots opened my eyes to their beauty, various antics, and intelligence. However, wild birds are also important for the ecosystem services they provide and as indicators of environmental health. Finally, I'm fascinated by birds as descendants of the dinosaur lineage.   Activity #2 -
      • Making windows safer - Ours are definitely bird-safe as they're perpetually fully covered by curtains, blinds, or outside security blinds. It's a win-win, as my household has an interest in keeping our home from overheating from excess sunlight while birds can't misperceive the space as an area they can fly through as there isn't a way for them to see any reflection of sky or trees.
      • Keeping cats indoors - We don't keep cats however I try to chase away any that venture into our yard.
      • Planting native plants - I have a mini-meadow of native wildflowers growing in the section of our yard where I find birds foraging.
      • Reducing pesticide use - I don't use them but am currently engaged in trying to convince other household members not to.
      • Drinking coffee that's good for birds - Although I'm not an avid coffee drinker, I'll look to purchase “Bird Friendly” or “Shade Grown” coffee whenever I decide to get some.
      • Reducing and reusing plastics - I've been good about cutting down on plastic product purchases and recycling, and I've been trying to get other household members to do so.
      • Citizen science - I've participated in the past and have been forced to take a hiatus (due to a local disturbance that's severely interrupted my backyard birding during this pandemic). I look forward to continuing in the future.
      Other actions I take to help birds:
      • Noise pollution impacts birds (as they need to be able to hear each other and not strain to communicate, alter their calls/songs, etc. - as I learned through Cornell Bird Academy's ornithology course). I'm trying to reduce my neighborhood noise pollution, something that's negatively impacted the numbers and frequency of birds visiting my yard. Although outdoor cats are the more pressing matter when it comes to animals humans introduce, irresponsible dog ownership (which thankfully appears to be more rare) can negatively impact on wild birds. I've found that it's true that constant, loud barking scares birds away and also negatively impacts people's ability to enjoy birds and other local wildlife. While I could retreat inside my home, pop my iPhone earbuds into my ears and play music to drown out the noise, I decided that it would help the birds if I can stop this, especially with springtime upon us.
      • I've been limiting my use of electricity, and go with solar-powered gadgets whenever I can. I'm also trying to conserve more water.
      • Through the American Bird Conservancy, I discovered a site they run which allows you to find and take action on communication towers which migrating birds can potentially collide into, here: https://abcbirds.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=3661c8d8562c404eb402656f608aab15
      • I support and donate to bird conservation organizations whenever I can.
      Activity #3 - Although I didn't formally take any counts of birds during the 1980's, I seem to recall seeing a greater abundance of birds flying in giant v-formations through the sky during migrations times back then.
      • Gyda
        Participant
        Chirps: 1
        Great info.  Thanks for sharing
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      #1: I love watching and listening to birds, especially during nesting season.  I hadn't thought about how important birds are to the ecosystem though.  I loved hearing about birds planting trees! #3: I have noticed bird declines in some areas near me.  Especially due to construction.  Open fields are turning into housing developments and business complexes.  One field used to have lots of red winged blackbirds, another field used to have lots of meadowlarks.  One construction area near my home used to be a field with lots of barn swallows catching insects.   I wonder if these birds are just moving to more remote areas where people don't see them, or if they really are declining in population.
    • Jessica
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Birds are beautiful , keep ‘em safe reducing plastic use
    • Paul
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Re. helping birds: The course points out how terrible climate change is for birds (and for course for humans and all species too). One of the most important things we can do for birds and for all living creature is to help stop climate change. We need to  demand our elected officials and corporations take real action and we need to take our own individual actions too. Each of us should be getting solar or wind energy; we should be driving less often and when we we do drive we should be driving small cars and the most efficient cars possible; and we should stop or at least drastically cut down on our air travel--we should leave the flying to the birds!
    • Alexandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: Birds are important in our area especially since we are in an agricultural district and grow a lot of plants as well. They take care of the pesky insects and worms (I’m not even going to get started on Jumping Worms- we need to find some aggressive attack-chickens for those!) and also make our lives more enjoyable.   Activity 2: - Decreasing plastic- good for the birds and the ocean! - Increasing native plants- we garden extensively, and love seeing birds. We try to attract as many birds as possible with colors, but I think we could go even further.   Activity 3: We have started seeing more birds in the past two years that we have in the past. We now have an established flock of Red-breasted Grosbeaks and some Carolina Wrens that hang out. We’d never seen them before at the farm. Also saw a Bald Eagle for the first time in our fields.   Activity 4: I want to start keeping a log of bird sightings and get more into photography and nature journaling. We have a good family friend who is a nature photographer, it would be nice to go out with her and see how she gets her photographs.
    • Tracy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      #1 - I have always found birds fascinating - beautiful, entertaining to watch and so important to our planet. I absolutely love walking the dog in spring and summer and listening to all the birds calls, trying to figure out who's singing. #2 - We've always had a bird-feeder and birdbath, but now I am inspired to add more variety to try and attract some different species. While we have quite a few native trees/shrubs/perennials, I am keen to add even more. Still have an issue with a big bay window which is a problem at certain times of the year - will look into what I can do about that. #3 - When we first moved to this area about 30 years ago, I remember seeing Baltimore Orioles and Grosbeaks, but they haven't been in our yard for years. Planning to offer more variety in feeders to see if we can attract them back. On a positive note, I noticed way more hummingbirds last summer as my collection of flowering plants has grown. #4 - So far, I've mostly been birdwatching in my own yard. Now I'm keen to try and get to other spots and expand the number of birds on my little list. eBird is great for letting me know nearby hotspots and sightings to get me started on that journey.
    • Nicolas
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 1. Birds matter to me for a number of reasons. First, seeing and hearing birds just makes my day better.  Second, they play a vital role in practically every ecosystem, from forests to deserts. Third and finally, the fact that they're living dinosaurs makes them totally awesome! I already thought that birds were important; taking this course merely reinforced that belief. These lessons are great! 👏
    • Jeannette
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 1.  I have always enjoyed looking at and listening to birds, but this course has increased my awareness and appreciation for the roles birds play in ecosystems by pollinating flowers, dispersing seeds, cleaning carcasses, and creating shelter for other forms of wildlife.  Activity 2. I will support forest biodiversity and birds by buying coffee that is labeled "Bird Friendly" or "Shade Grown," when possible, and grow more native plants.  Activity 3.  The Bald Eagle was on the verge of extinction due to hunting and pesticides.  The Bald Eagle has now been removed from the Endangered Species List.  Activity 4.  I took this course for entertainment.  However, this course has inspired me to continue birdwatching and include birds as subjects in my watercolor projects.
    • Alicia
      Participant
      Chirps: 23
      Activity 1: I've always loved birds, mainly thanks to my mom. This course has encouraged me to spend more time just watching birds and noting what they're doing, instead of thinking only about keeping lists. Activity 2: I already do the seven actions for birds, but I find the most challenging one is to cut down on single-use plastic. I recycle all my plastic, but normal daily life is almost impossible without a significant consumption of plastic, for packaging, in appliances, etc. Whenever there are alternatives, I use them. Another important action we could all do is to make sure we vote for politicians that will act to protect the environment and wildlife. Activity 3: I see that populations of many birds have visibly declined over my lifetime, but populations of some species that were extremely rare when I was young (the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon) have bounced back. Activity 4: This course has made me want to start keeping field notes of birds from my favorite local patch, and keeping track of bird activity throughout the year.
    • Ross
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      This course has made much more aware of local issues regarding birds and the general environment.   It has also inspired me to become more active in my local birding groups, particularly  Birdlife Australia. I am now also contributing to eBird :-)
    • This year, I will eliminate plastic use, only consume shade grown coffee and plant more native plants in my garden. Already do the other ones.
    • Alice
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Learning more about birds has inspired me to share that knowledge with others.