ITHACA, N.Y. —
Over the past 30 years, tree swallows, barn swallows, purple martins and eastern phoebes have dropped in number. The cause remains unknown, though scientists believe it may be linked in part to declines in the insects that birds eat.
Anyone who loves watching birds can help scientists study and understand their plight by participating in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch citizen-science project (NestWatch.org).
“Every year, thousands of volunteers from across the United States monitor bird nests to help researchers track changes in bird populations,” said Jason Martin, NestWatch project coordinator. “By keeping track of how many eggs birds lay and how many young they raise, anyone can contribute valuable data that may help lead to the conservation of these species.”
“Recent population declines in North America’s aerial insectivores are a growing concern,” said Amanda Rodewald, director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Conservation efforts to halt or reverse these worrisome trends are unlikely to succeed until we fully understand the causes of decline. One thing limiting our ability to identify factors driving population declines is a lack of information on reproduction.”
The nests of many birds are easy to find and observe. Tree swallows readily use nest boxes. Barn swallows often plaster their nests onto beams inside barns and under bridges. Purple martins use large communal nesting houses, and eastern phoebes frequently nest under porch eaves and in garages.
Participating in NestWatch is free and easy. Information on where and when to look for nests and how to properly monitor them is available at NestWatch.org. NestWatch accepts observations for all nesting birds, so information about any species is welcome.