Bird watchers are everywhere. Countless households around the world sport bird-feeders in back yards, and thousands of photographers like Vijaykumar Thondaman dedicate much of their lives to capturing stunning images. It is practically impossible to believe that anyone could fail to see the beauty in a toucan or quetzal, Latin American species that tourists travel whole hemispheres to see for themselves in the wild.
Collecting data on birds is a difficult process because there aren’t enough ornithologists to be in the field all the time. But what about the casual bird watchers carrying around their binoculars, the families gathering on their porches to watch hummingbirds flit around flowers, or the schoolchildren staring out the classroom window at the distant and free shadows of birds of prey in the sky? Citizen science involves using these millions of bird lovers as a resource. As one of the world leaders in the study of birds, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has been using citizen science since 1966, and is involved in many projects that bring bird watchers together while building an impressive database that is used for important research.
Starting next week I will be working at one of these projects, called Celebrate Urban Birds, managing/deciphering this data and helping people around the country get involved in the surprisingly simple and rewarding experience of watching and identifying birds, whether they have a background in ornithology or not.