While some FeederWatchers see amazing birds, a wide variety of species, or large numbers of birds, most FeederWatchers see low numbers of what might be
characterized as "predictable" birds. These counts are the heart of FeederWatch.
Focusing on the extreme cases would provide
a biased view of bird populations,
and ignoring the common birds
could be a major mistake. While we
are all thrilled by unusual sightings and high counts, it's
the everyday observations of common birds that are so
important for monitoring bird populations.
Britain's regret about NOT counting House Sparrows
In the winter 2004 issue of BirdScope, researchers
from The Bristish Trust for Ornithology* shared
what they are learning about House Sparrow declines
in Britain. They concluded their article with a lesson
that is worth repeating:
"In Britain we are worried about our House Sparrows. We know that in North America they are introduced
pests, but we could do with some of yours!
We think our story has some important lessons for
programs that monitor wildlife. In the 1960s and early
1970s, we thought that sparrows were just a nuisance--
they were so numerous and difficult to count
that we asked our volunteers not to count them on our
Common Birds Census between 1962 and 1974. What
fools we were! We lost valuable information at a stage
when they were doing well, leaving a big gap in our
knowledge. The lesson is surely that we need to monitor
all our wildlife, particularly the common species.
It is these common and widespread species that are
perhaps the best barometers of the health of our own
environment, as we, too, are a very common and widespread
FeederWatch participants often believe that the
Lab is not interested in gathering data about the same
old birds, especially when the birds are "just" doves
or sparrows or starlings. The Lab needs counts of all
birds--as well as reports of no birds--to be able to
monitor population trends over time. Please send in
your counts, no matter how small or ordinary.
*Humphrey Q. P. Crick, head of the demography unit at the
British Trust for Ornithology, and Mike P. Toms, organizer
of Garden BirdWatch, the United Kingdom's version of