Photo by Tamara McCadden

There’s an airport in my back yard!


Posted on Thursday January 18, 2018

Feeding the winter birds in your back yard is a pasttime that many of us enjoy. The colourful visitors add an abundance of entertainment to the winter months for those that brave the weather to fill feeders with seed and suet, some even provide heated bird baths to a feathered group of wildlife that over-winter in an environment were all water is virtually inaccessible due to the fact, of course, that it is frozen. The food provided at back yard feeding stations supplements the natural foods found in local trees and shrubs. Feeding areas can become a busy hub of activity, making one think of a feathered airport. Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, White and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Dark-eyed Junkos, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers can all be easily seen throughout Garrison Petawawa and the surrounding “Valley”. If you have a feeder you will understand the Airport analogy, and the fact that an unseen control tower controls all comings and goings. No crashes between the visiting birds take place, but there are often disputes over landing authority!

You may not be aware, however, that you as a ‘feeder of birds’ can fulfill a role in the ornithology world. If you have a bird feeder set up, and have a few minutes on a fairly regular basis, you could collect data that would contribute to long term bird research. Bird Studies Canada hosts a citizen science program entitled Project Feeder Watch ( Participants of Project Feeder Watch collect data on the numbers and species of birds that frequent their feeders. This information assists Ornithologists (bird scientists) as they study population movements and fluctuations. Birds are an excellent indicator of the health of the environment around them. So these kinds of studies have far reaching possibilities. Teachers interested in involving their students can also participate, which brings nature right to the class room (see links provided on the website above). Students will learn to identify local winter birds, and experience firsthand the data collection techniques used by scientists.

Another Bird Studies Canada program that took place recently is the annual Christmas Bird Count ( During this program that began in 1900, volunteers collect numbers and all species noted on a single day between 14 December and 5 January. This program is often co-ordinated on local levels through naturalist clubs. For more information and links to local counts, see the web site provided.

As our seasons progress, numerous other citizen science programs take place, and will be highlighted in this column. So stay tuned, as one of the programs just might be something of interest to you!