LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraskans are interested in birds and community science, as the results of the Nebraska Bird Month 2020 Challenge show.
Normally celebrated with statewide birding events, Nebraska Bird Month in May looked a little different this year. To safeguard against the spread of COVID-19, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission took events online, and offered bird lovers a new way to celebrate: by using the crowd-sourcing community science app iNaturalist to record bird observations. Five bird observations were needed to complete the Nebraska Bird Month 2020 Challenge.
More than 350 people participated, using the app to photograph and identify birds across the state.
“We had amazing participation,” wildlife educator Jamie Bachmann said. “Our top observer made 299 observations of more than 100 different species of birds.”
In total, participants logged more than 4,530 bird observations, creating a snapshot of the bird species found in Nebraska in May. The most commonly observed species was the American robin, with 295 observations. Lesser-observed species were the scissor-tailed flycatcher, blackpoll warbler, blue-headed vireo and evening grosbeak.
By using iNaturalist, participants also contributed to science.
“When at least two people from the iNaturalist community confirm or refine an identification, it becomes a ‘research-grade’ observation,” Bachmann said. “Research-grade observations can help scientists understand population ranges and species diversity.”
She was excited to see Nebraskans’ participation in the Nebraska Bird Month Challenge. “While we needed to change the format this year, I think this challenge helped us all stay connected as a statewide community of wildlife watchers,” she said.
While Nebraska Bird Month is over, the chance to have fun observing birds is not. There are many community science projects to get involved in, such as Celebrate Urban Birds, a year-round project allowing diverse urban audiences to gather data on bird populations. Try NestWatch and monitor nests to help experts understand the reproductive biology of birds. Looking for a winter community science project? Look into Project FeederWatch and survey the backyard birds that come to your feeder from November through April.
To find more bird-related community science opportunities, visit scistarter.org.
Photo: Two young girls look for birds during Bioblitz, a citizen science event, at Chadron State Park in Dawes County. (Nebraskaland Magazine/NGPC)