downy woodpecker

Birding Challenges to Tackle this Winter

There are joys that can be found close to home and like many of us, watching birds is at the top of our list. You don’t have to travel far to see frolicking chickadees or that elusive Fox Sparrow. However, if you’re looking to up-your-game and give yourself a fun challenge, we recommend participating in these community science birding projects. FeederWatch from the Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, and the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count will motivate your birding and help scientists gather important population data.

Downy Woodpecker


FeederWatch, along with Cornell’s NestWatch and eBird programs, has built an immense data bank of information about bird populations, migratory patterns, and breeding locations…all supplied by bird watchers like you!

It’s easy to get involved: register at the FeederWatch website and put out seed, then on your own schedule, record the number of each species you see and enter your data. Your findings, combined with those of thousands of other participants, provide ornithologists with a big picture view of winter birds across the country. How cool is that? Plus, it is a family-friendly activity that children can help with and be a part of.

Need to upgrade your feeder set-up? Browse Mass Audubon Shop feeders to make sure you’re ready to count!

Christmas Bird Count

For a bigger challenge, you can join the nation’s longest-running community science bird project for its 121st year: National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Organizers assign birders to specific areas within predetermined 15-mile diameter circles, each of which is assigned a name. For example, Pam Sowizral, Mass Audubon Metro West’s Volunteer Coordinator and birding program leader, is birding this year as part of the Concord Circle.

The challenge takes place on one day for birders to venture out and record species and their numbers. Depending on the circle area, a date will be chosen between December 14 and January 5 so sign-up soon. During that 24 hour period, you can bird as much as you’d like! Some folks are out before first light to find owls then bird right through until evening, and others spend several hours giving their section a good comb through. How can you cover the most birds in your area?

Happy Winter Birding

By joining FeederWatch or the Christmas Bird Count you get the chance to do take part in a beloved hobby, while providing important scientific data – it is a win-win situation you can feel good about! Happy Birding!