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Springing into action for birds: Join NestWatch

ITHACA, N.Y. — With spring’s arrival and winter months fading, nature is poised to burst forth with new life that can brighten the days, especially during these unsettled times, notes a news release from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, based in Ithaca, N.Y.

Birds are busy courting, building nests and preparing to raise their young.

“There’s a lot we can learn simply by watching these rites of spring,” the release begins. Anyone who finds a bird’s nest can help scientists by reporting to the free NestWatch project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. NestWatch collects, analyzes and distributes data, serving as a warehouse of nesting bird information.

NestWatchers, in turn, get to witness the start of new life and help to preserve it with their valuable information.

“Every year, scientists use data collected by NestWatchers in published studies,” says Robyn Bailey, NestWatch project leader. “For example, NestWatch data recently were used in the first range-wide analysis on the effects of drought on Eastern Bluebird breeding success. We’ve studied the impact of invasive species and how long, cold nights change nesting behavior.”

Those who find a nest can report its location, the species using it, number of eggs laid and other important milestones as the adult birds incubate, raise and fledge young.

The NestWatch website and mobile app now accept reports submitted from anywhere in the world, enabling scientists to compare birds across their global breeding range. In some cases, citizen-science data allow researchers to carry on their work despite restrictions imposed by the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.

“NestWatch has helped us coordinate between researchers and prepare to find and monitor nests when we cannot physically be with each other and guide each other,” says Eleanor Diamant, a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA.

“With potential shelter-in-place ordinances across our state and country, we are hoping instead to use citizen science to find nests in our own neighborhoods and fill the research gaps caused by the current pandemic.”

Whether for academic purposes, to participate in an activity that expands scientific knowledge or to have an uplifting way to spend time, area residents can register for the project at NestWatch.org where they’ll learn about how to monitor nests without disturbing the birds.

Download the NestWatch app in the Apple App Store or from Google Play.

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