Contributing to citizen Science projects helps our collective knowledge, but it also helps us as individuals learn. We'd like to highlight some citizen science projects in which families can participate. If you know of a project that we could highlight on our blog, please let us know!

The first citizen science project we'd like to highlight is a big one! eBird is an online bird checklist program that helps you keep track of the birds you see. A great thing about eBird is that data entered into the system by citizen scientists like you also helps scientists study birds!

eBird, a joint project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, is free and easy for anyone to use. Once registered, you can enter your bird sightings as often as you like, and include as much data as you want, including photos, information on the age and gender of the bird, and more. You can tell eBird what birds you saw in your back yard while having lunch, or enter a long list of the birds you saw when you spent the whole day at the local state park or national wildlife refuge. You'll be able to see your lists again any time you'd like. eBird data entry is global, so anyone in the world can use it to record their bird sightings.

It's a lot of fun to look through eBird maps and charts to see how sightings recorded by your fellow citizen scientists look over time and over a large area. For instance, using eBird, you can figure out what kinds of birds you might expect to see next time you visit a relative in another state.

Once you have a few checklists of your own, it's also a lot of fun to look through what you've seen in the past and how your sightings may change or be surprisingly similar year after year. If you saw your first hummingbird of the year on May 5th, 2012, you'll know to start keeping your eyes out for your little feathered friend in early May this year.

eBird is a fun and educational tool suitable for use by the whole family. eBird tools are used for other citizen scientist projects, too, so don't be surprised if we highlight a future project that uses eBird data. Visit the eBird.org site to learn more and get started!

Birdorable Black-capped Chickadee on a branch

Black-capped Chickadee

Dive into the world of chickadees with these fascinating and fun facts! Known for their playful nature and delightful chirps, chickadees are more than just tiny birds flitting through your backyard. Here we go:

  • There are seven species of chickadee in the world. Chickadees, along with titmice, belong to the family Paridae. This family of songbirds also includes birds known as tits.
  • The Black-capped Chickadee is the state bird of both Maine and Massachusetts. It is also the provincial bird of New Brunswick.
  • The Grey-headed Chickadee is also known as the Siberian Tit. Strangely, it does not have a grey head.
  • These little birds are known as "chickadees" because of their alarm call. This type of name is onomatopoetic -- the word is the sound that it describes.
  • The more "dee" notes at the end of a chickadee call indicate increasing levels of agitation. For instance, a chickadee may end their call with just one "dee" when a known person fills a favorite bird feeder. An owl roosting near the feeding station would warrant many more "dee" notes.
  • This is what the call of the Black-capped Chickadee sounds like:
     
  • While some species may move seasonally, for the most part chickadees are non-migratory. Passing migrant species may seek out feeding flocks of chickadees (finding their "chick-a-dee" call familiar) as they stop along their migration route. As flocks of chickadees attract migratory birds, they also attract birdwatchers!
Birdorable Boreal Chickadee on a branch

Boreal Chickadee

  • Chickadees are known to store food items like seeds or insect larvae in times of abundance. The cached food may be retrieved in leaner times. The Mexican Chickadee is the only chickadee which does not cache food.
  • Chickadees are cavity nesters. They use old woodpecker holes or excavate their own cavities in rotted or soft wood. They will also use birdhouses.
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadees like to line their nests with animal hair, with fur from animals like coyotes, skunk, rabbits, and others making up to half of the nest's materials.
  • A group of chickadees can be called a banditry of chickadees. This collective noun probably refers to the mask-like appearance of chickadee species.
  • The range of Black-capped Chickadees overlaps with that of Carolina Chickadees. They look so much alike that even the birds themselves may have a hard time telling each other apart - they hybridize! Offspring of a mixed pair sing a song that is three notes long. That's one less note than the Carolina parent, and one more note than the Black-capped parent!
Birdorable Mountain Chickadee overlooking the Grand Canyon

Mountain Chickadee

Five species of chickadee found in North American can be found right here on Birdorable! See the following species pages:

Birdorable Chickadee Gifts

Razorbills out of range

Florida birders have been treated to a rare sight this winter. Hundreds of Razorbills have been seen off both coasts of the state; the birds have been seen as far west as Pensacola along the Gulf of Mexico! The normal winter range for the Razorbill, which is a type of auk, extends down to the coast of North Carolina.

Razorbills breed along rocky habitat on coastal northeastern North America.

blog Razorbill

The big question is: why have the Razorbills moved so far out of their normal range? Several reasons have been speculated. Superstorm Sandy may have affected the usual food supply of Razorbills. Access to food, abundance of certain types of fish, and even water visibility may all play a factor. Razorbills may have had a banner breeding year, which means there are more young Razorbills competing for food and space. These factors and others may all have driven Razorbills further south than they normally venture, or other things not yet considered may play a part in this season's unprecedented Razorbill invasion. If you love Razorbills, you'll love our updated Birdorable Razorbill cartoon. Find swimming or flying Razorbill merchandise here: customizable Razorbill gifts.

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2013! We added almost 100 new birds on Birdorable last year, and updated many others. In the picture below you can see all the new bird species we added in 2012, from lovebirds to vultures. Click to embiggen.

Happy New Year from the Birdorable Class of 2012

Thank you for reading our blog. We have big plans for 2013 and look forward to bring you many more cute birds, so stay tuned. You can also find Birdorable on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.