By Emily Chung
Want to be a scientist? Here’s your chance. Accept each mission to observe and explore cool science in the world around you. Report back on your experiences and observations—we’d love to hear about them.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to spot at least one kind of wild bird that you don’t know, identify it, and report it to scientists.
There are all kinds of new tools available that make this easier than it sounds!
It might be fun to get your whole family involved in this adventure.
Let’s take this one step-by-step.
- Choose a place to look for birds.
The easiest place to get started is the shore or a lake, river, or the ocean, where birds are out in the open, rather than hiding in bushes and trees. But any local conservation area or large, natural park will do.
- Get your equipment together.
- A notebook
- A camera, if possible, so you snap a photo of the bird, making it easier to identify later.
- A field guide to birds, if you can get one. You can borrow a paper one from the library. Or if you have a smartphone or tablet, you can also download a free app such as Merlin or Birdsnap (more about these later)
- Go find your bird(s).
- Write down the location, date, time and how many people were with you.
- Record all the birds you see, both those you know and those you don’t – once you spot a bird a) take a photo and b) write a description in your notebook – things like its size, its shape, colour, and where you found it (Swimming in water? In a tree? On the ground?)
- Identify your bird(s).
- If you have a paper field guide, try that first.
- The Merlin app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will help you identify the bird by asking you questions, such as its size and colour.
- If you managed to get a good photo of your bird, you can try uploading it to the Birdsnap app or website (no smartphone or tablet necessary!) Birdsnap will automatically try to identify it. The software was created by engineers at Columbia University.
- Report your results.
Register at the eBird Canada website. Click on “submit observations” and fill in the information about what you saw. Your bird sighting will be added to a huge, global database that helps other birders and scientists understand where different birds live and how common they are.
Tell us what you saw and where! You can also email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Chung is a journalist in Toronto who loves exploring. She has a Ph.D. in chemistry.