Cornell Lab is now radio tracking feeder birds

It is such fun to watch birds at our feeders and we can take part in Citizen Science by sending our observations in to such programs as the Great Backyard Bird Count or Cornell’s ‘Project Feeder Watch‘. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is taking the study of feeder birds to a new level with their program to track feeder birds using tiny radio transmitters (technically a transponder) they can place on a leg band that goes on a bird’s leg.

Since those of us with bird feeders cannot watch them all day long (though it can be tempting), this automated tracking program can record every time the bird comes to the feeder as well as additional information such as the date and time of every visit. These tiny devices do not interfere with the bird’s activities. According to the Cornell Lab website, “These lightweight tags weigh less than 0.1 gram (for comparison, a Black-capped Chickadee averages approximately 11 grams).”

The information obtained by these recordings can help fill a few of the many gaps in our understanding of birds and their behavior. After only 5 months of the initial study of 129 common feeder birds–Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, and House Finches–Cornell has amassed a lot of data. Here is one interesting example: “Individual birds took up to 203 seeds in a single day (some of these they almost certainly cached for later in the season).” No wonder the seed seems to evaporate from our feeders sometimes!

Check out this informative video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Did you take part in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count and if you did what was your most interesting bird?

Are you a member of Cornell’s ‘Project Feeder Watch’?

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