Birding is a great hobby. It provides you the opportunity to never really stop learning and growing in your interest and abilities. There are always new worlds to conquer. And, the passion directed toward birding can also benefit scientific and conservation objectives. In order to monitor changes in the environment and how they affect birds, skilled volunteers are needed to collect and contribute data. Pennsyl-vania has many excellent ongoing projects that augment our growing understanding of how the state's birds and their habitat are adjusting to various environmental issues and concerns. And, the field "work" also is a lot of fun to do.
Birding draws hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians outdoors annually to experience the thrill of migration and the challenge of identifying wild birds through song and appearance. Every sighting, whether in the backyard of a Philadelphia suburb or deep in the Allegheny National Forest, has value to us and helps develop a more complete picture of the world of wild birds. Due to its geographical component, eBird allows us to construct interactive bird checklists for individual locations, including parks, game lands, and preserves. It really connects birds to the places upon which they depend. Other popular citizen science projects like the Christmas Bird Count have a valu-able geographical context.
One of the basic components of each of the bird projects that we recommend is a connection between the birds you enjoy and the places that make those ob-servations possible. Without good habitat, the birds that bring us so much enjoyment are not possible.
When you see and identify a bird, whether you're a novice or veteran birder, you're holding a piece to a puzzle. Sharing your information helps us put this puzzle together, and that is the essence of eBird and other bird monitoring projects: birders sharing and working together for the betterment of wild birds, their critical habitats, their conservation, and their management. Your observations in the field help us gather more information about birds.
Participants who submit wild bird observations to eBird are actually forwarding a checklist that helps the Game Commission and other conservation organizations pinpoint where species live and breed instate.
It helps them gauge abundant they are, and whether their numbers are changing over time. It also helps us better understand which locations are important to differing species of birds.
Aside from data-collection, though, Pennsylvania eBird and other citizen science projects we recommend offer the opportunity to engage the bird watching community more directly than ever before and teach the new birders about the art and science of bird identification, behavior-watching, and population monitoring. These projects provide a community of birders and ornithologists who support the process of learning and teaching others about birds.
Some of these projects need only fairly rudimentary skills and involve beginners easily. Some even provide bird identification lessons as part of the project. Others may call for fairly specialized skills or abilities and do not require the participant to be able to identify all species of birds that might be encountered.
In general, it is a good idea to follow some basic rules of conduct that protect the birds and protect the hobby of birding. Get acquainted with these rules at the American Birding Association's Code of Ethics Webpage.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission encourages the public to get involved with these surveys, fitting your skills and interests to the appropriate project.
The following projects are summarized on separate pages:
Pennsylvania eBird – Survey birds year-round anywhere and report your results and see your contributions graphically.
Christmas Bird Count – Count birds in targeted circles during the winter holiday season.
International Migratory Bird Day – Celebrate the wonders of bird migration by conducting bird walks and educational programs.
Pennsylvania Annual Migratory Count - Count and report birds during peak migration season.
Great Backyard Bird Count – Count birds in mid-winter in your own backyard, a park, a school, or a nature center.
Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey – A count of eagles during the winter! Contact Pennsylvania Game Commission biologist Patti Barber for details on how to get involved in Pennsylvania.