On January 20th, researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B titled “Convergence of broad-scale migration strategies in terrestrial birds.” Using data from eBird that indicated the presence and absence of over a hundred different bird species in the Western Hemisphere, they tracked migration patterns among the various species and found that many of them used very similar routes that avoided or took advantage of certain geographical or atmospheric factors. In short, the paper illustrated that scientists can use the data from eBird in just the manner that I always tell guests here at Xandari: with thousands of observations by people in different places and at all times of the year, population statistics, migration data, and other information can be gathered about bird species around the world. All through citizen science.
To achieve the precise detail of the map above with traditional tracking methods, ornithologists would have had to attach expensive electronic tracking devices to thousands of birds (118 species were chosen for this study), amounting to millions of dollars in research where simple (but dedicated and myriad) contributions by birdwatchers would do.
“It’s an exciting new area of research,” says La Sorte. “By using eBird data and other forms of migration tracking information, we’re getting a more detailed picture than ever before about where and when birds migrate. That’s the kind of information we need to make smart conservation decisions for species that live in vastly different regions during the year. Citizen science makes it possible to do this for populations across an entire hemisphere.”
Thanks in part to the eye-catching nature of the gif animation, this research has been featured in many news sources, including the New York Times, the Daily Mail, and Gizmodo, as well as in eBird-supporting organizations like Audubon and, of course, Cornell’s All About Birds page.