Data Entry Contest: How Does Your Habitat Benefit Birds?




February 14, 2023



| Gray Catbird by Laura Frazier |

For the seventh season in a row, Project FeederWatch and our sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited are rewarding registered FeederWatchers with the chance to win prizes. This year, Celestron is joining the fun and offering one pair of binoculars to each data entry contest winner as well. After entering bird counts (data) into the FeederWatch website, participants have the opportunity to share a story, memory, or tip by clicking the “Enter to Win” button on the Count Summary page. We randomly select two winners per prompt. Our second Data Entry contest prompt this season was:

There are many ways to improve habitat for wildlife. What do you do to make your backyard a haven for your avian friends?

Congratulations to our winners, Pat Brown and Jennifer Gaus-Myers!

Pat shared:

Water is our habitat specialty! We live on a lake in North Georgia, have a waterfall/pond feature, and also place a dish of water near the bird feeding area that over 30 bird varieties, 20+ deer, too many squirrels, and other critters enjoy. The outside space where I feed birds is a floor below my big kitchen window, in an area full of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs, which includes large trees for birds to roost and make nests in. There is also brush for the wrens and other birds to make a home in.

Flower gardening is my passion, providing more food for the birds. Hummingbirds love the perennial flowers, especially the penstemon, pineapple sage, and trumpet vine. Immediately outside my kitchen window is my favorite fig tree where the birds often land before heading to the feeding area. Little did I know, when I planted it, that it would allow me to take pictures from just a few feet away, offering the benefit of identifying birds that usually too far away. This bird sanctuary is a gift that puts a smile on my face every day. All the birds and critters love it too!

Planting gardens and landscaping your yard with wildlife in mind is one of the best ways to help birds as they seek out food sources, nesting habitat, protection from predators, and more. Not only do plants provide food such as seeds, fruit, nectar, and sap, but they also provide habitat for insects, which are essential for birds and their young. Birds use trees and shrubs for cover and protection from predators, and use plant fibers for nesting material and nesting habitat. To learn more, check out Project FeederWatch’s page on Gardening For Birds.

Jennifer shared:

I have tried to vary yard cover using native plants, shrubs, and trees, using species with seeds and berries that attract birds. I do not deadhead my flowerheads – I leave the dead stalks standing all winter [so that birds can access] seeds, hidden insects, and perching spots. I have a dust bath area that I keep clear and a heated bird bath with a small bubbler. I do not use pesticides; I let all the invertebrates that birds might find tasty have a home here. Many birds nest in my tall spruces or my thick hedge. I use UV-reflective products on my windows to reduce impact. Additionally, I have two wren houses and a Eastern Screech owl box…all on a third of an acre!

Jennifer’s efforts are a great example of what can be done even if you only have access to a small plot of land! NestWatch, another citizen science project here at the Cornell Lab, has several resources that can help you provide nesting space for birds. Check out their Right Bird, Right House tool to find nest box construction plans. You can use the filters on this tool to find species that live in your location and habitat, then click on the species page to learn about their specific nesting preferences, download a construction plan, and find tips on where and how to install the box. You can also find tips for installing nest boxes here. If you do put up a nest box, consider monitoring it for NestWatch! Only interested in putting out nesting materials for birds to use? We recommend reading their nesting materials blog post for tips!

Thanks to everyone who participated and shared their stories – we wish we could share all of your submissions! Look for the prompts after you submit your next count and stay tuned for when we announce the next data entry contest winners on March 14th, 2023! Email feederwatch@cornell.edu with questions, and read the stories from past winners on our blog.

Interested in becoming a FeederWatcher? Join the fun

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