April 24, 2024

Birding by the New York Times: Get involved

Our understanding of birds is largely shaped by the work of ordinary people. After all, anyone can go out and pay attention to an anonymous world before us.

This summer, we invite readers, both new and experienced birders, to participate in a scientific project we are collaborating on with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We’ll collect observations about the birds around us, fill in data gaps, and give researchers a clearer picture of biodiversity.

It is important work. Almost half of the world’s bird species are known or suspected to be in extinction, and climate change could accelerate this trend. By collecting this kind of data, you will help make informed decisions about bird conservation and study.

For those who are new to this activity, we will provide a series of challenges in the coming weeks, so that they can start providing scientific data.

If you are an experienced bird watcher, there is something else to ask you. Cornell’s scientific database typically receives fewer bird sightings in the summer. So we want you to send them as often as you can, if only to record common birds in your area. If you want an extra challenge, go to other sites that you don’t frequent.

The project will start soon and will be completed in September. Register now to connect with a global community of readers, scientists and researchers; participate in online discussions and share what you’ve learned to help others. You will also find information on virtual events, like this one. And you might even find a new way to look at nature.

To start, tell us something about yourself. It only takes a few minutes and registration is free.

The next step is to download Merlin or eBird, the birding apps from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Click on the phrase that best describes your birding experience below, and keep an eye out for your email with instructions.

Please note that Merlin and eBird are third-party applications that have their own privacy policies and that The New York Times has no control over (and is not responsible for) their content or privacy practices.

If you have been birdwatching for a short time, we recommend that you use Merlin for a while. If you have some experience, but do not know eBird, we recommend that you take it Cornell eBird Basic Course in Spanish, or at least see this short video before you start sending the checklists.

After filling out the above form, you will receive an email from birds@nytimes.com in the next few days. It will include the first in a series of challenges designed to develop your birding skills. Over time, you will be able to participate in the more experienced birder challenges listed below.

If you haven’t done so yet, register through the form that appears above and Download the free ebird program. Be sure to add the hashtag #NYT in the comments section of your eBird checklist.

All observations are useful because Cornell University Lab’s eBird database receives less information during the summer. We are counting on you, as part of this project, to help fill in the gaps in scientific data so that experts can better understand changes in bird populations. If you can, focus on these places to submit eBird checklists:

  • Non-recreational open spaces. Is that tree on the path a common place for house sparrows? Is that swamp behind the nearby Walmart overflowing with life? Take the test!

  • Areas away from roads. Most of the reported birdwatching points are located close to roads. The further away from them the better.

  • Farms and fields. Rural and agricultural areas are some of the least observed habitats for birds. Send checklists from public roads near crop fields, cattle pastures, and other cultivated areas.

  • The areas between the most popular eBird areas. Use the tab To inspect of the eBird app to get points of view adjacent or shared locations where comments have been submitted by other birders. Go birding in the areas between or far from those points.

  • Areas with few observations of a particular species. What bird species are common in your area? Look for previous reports of that species in the eBird Species Map and focus on your city. Next, visit areas that have not previously been observed for that species and make a checklist.

Don’t forget to add the hashtag #NYT to the comments section of your eBird checklist.

The Merlin app is a reference and learning tool. Merlin sightings are not recorded in the Cornell eBird database. To submit a Merlin finding to the eBird database, follow the instructions in the Merlin app.

Of course! But register first by filling the form mentioned above. Then continue using the apps as usual. Just be sure to report on eBird if you are an experienced birder and add the hashtag #NYT in the comments section of your checklist.

This will allow us to reach out specifically to the readers of The Times.

If you are a beginner bird watcher, we recommend the Merlin app as a reference and learning tool, it will also allow you to share your observations with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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