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More About Project FeederWatch

As our environment changes because of climatic shifts or human alterations to the landscape, bird populations may provide one of the best indicators of environmental health. Bird populations are dynamic - they change rapidly from place to place and from year to year. Data from a single location or a short-term study can be very misleading unless we have comparable data from other areas and other years. Most feeder bird populations are in no danger of extinction, in fact the majority appear to be stable or even increasing. However, they are visible and relatively easy to monitor.

So why bother to monitor feeder birds? Several of these species are exotics - birds that were introduced to North America (e.g., House Sparrow and European Starling). These introduced birds can have adverse effects on native bird species. Other common birds, such as Brown-headed Cowbirds and jays, either parasitize or prey on certain bird species. Changes in their populations may affect the numbers of species they harm. Still other species, such as redpolls, come to feeders from breeding grounds in the far North, beyond the reach of breeding bird surveys and other means of documenting their numbers. Finally, the fascinating phenomenon of winter bird irruptions is worthy of study in its own right. By tracking the whereabouts of nomadic finches, FeederWatchers are making a significant contribution to ornithologists? understanding of population fluctuations.

Project FeederWatch is largely self-sustaining, with most of its budget coming from participant fees. These fees cover the costs of producing and mailing participant kits; editing, entering, and analyzing data; and publishing the results for participants and the general public alike.


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