June 28, 2004

'Celebrate Urban Birds!' week, July 9-18, connects kids to neighborhoods, Cornell ornithologists say

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Crows, starlings and street pigeons aren't the only feathered denizens of American cities, children will learn when they participate as "citizen scientists" in a new annual event from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Celebrate Urban Birds! Week, July 9-18, should produce some surprises for city dwellers and for ornithologists, as well, predict educators at the university-based program that regularly enlists non-professional bird-watchers in the name of science.

Urban Bird Studies Web site
To become a citizen scientist in the city, visit the Urban Birds site at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/programs/urbanbirds/.

"Birds live interesting and mysterious lives, and that includes birds that live in cities," says John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "American crows, house sparrows, gulls -- all of these species have much to teach us, and the people who can best make that happen are the people who live in urban areas."

Fitzpatrick said the celebration was developed to encourage city dwellers of all ages across the continent to learn about the birds in their community, while helping scientists learn how these birds are able to live in city neighborhoods.

The event will gather data on birds typically thought of as "urban birds" such as crows, House Sparrows, gulls, starlings, and pigeons, but will also be monitoring other species that occur in cities but aren't usually thought of as "city birds." These include great blue herons, northern cardinals, American robins, blue jays -- many of North America's most familiar birds.

Celebrate Urban Birds! taps into the concept of "citizen science," in which people observe birds at one or more locations and provide their information to researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. There, all observations are combined in order to determine the status of North America birds. The backbone of the celebration is two of the lab's current citizen science studies, "Crows Count" and "Birds in the Cities." Children, their families, community groups, classrooms and others are encouraged to take part.

"For many people, especially kids, Celebrate Urban Birds! will be their first introduction to birds," says Mindy LaBranche, project coordinator for Cornell's Urban Bird Studies. "Kids have a

natural interest in birds, so fostering that interest early on could make a difference for the directions children take throughout their lives."

In addition to "meeting" the birds, participants will also be able to meet Cornell Lab of Ornithology scientists over the Internet via chatrooms. Building up to the big week in July, many informal educators, parents and others participated in training workshops in May and June.

"Participating in Celebrate Urban Birds! is fun and easy and a great way to connect kids to the neighborhoods in which they live," says LaBranche. "By engaging them is this celebration, we hope that they will become hooked on birds and science for life."

To participate, sign up on the Web at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/programs/urbanbirds/ . Materials will be provided at no cost. Projects can be conducted once or multiple times over the 10-day period. To help promote the event, contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 or e-mail them at cornellbirds@cornell.edu .

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution interpreting and conserving the earth's biological diversity through research, education and citizen science focused on birds.