Count Feeder Birds for ScienceProject FeederWatch is operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. Its mission is to bring the public and scientists together in a partnership that helps us all learn more about birds and the natural world.
This year’s Birdspotter contest was, again, full of bright, creative, and beautiful photos of birds. We received well over 2,000 entries and nearly 13,000 voters helped us choose our People’s Choice and Grand Prize winners! Without further ado, here are our top three Grand Prize winners for this year’s contest:
Our second-place Grand Prize winner was Laura Frazier of West Virginia. She had also won the People’s Choice in our “Birds with Food, or at the Feeder” category this year with her photo of a Cedar Waxwing gleaning the fruit off of a crabapple tree. Laura heard from a friend about a flock in a nearby orchard: “I couldn’t resist going to take some photos of them as they are such beautiful birds that I don’t get to see very often.”
Thanks to our sponsor, Wild Birds Unlimited for providing great prizes to all of our winners this season! And, of course, a huge thank you to all who submitted, commented, viewed and voted in the contest this year. To view other winners, please visit our BirdSpotter homepage.
Get your cameras ready for next year’s contest, which will begin again in the fall.
For the third season in a row, Cornell Lab and our sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited are rewarding registered FeederWatchers with BirdSpotter prizes. After entering bird counts (aka data) into the FeederWatch website, participants have the opportunity to share a story, memory, or tip. Our fourth and final Data Entry contest prompt was:
What’s your favorite bird to see at your feeders? Do you wait all season for a glimpse of it, or does it come every day? Share with us what makes that species so special to see at your feeders!
Congratulations to our randomly selected winner, Vanni Prichard of Missouri! Vanni wrote this descriptive piece about Dark-eyed Juncos:
The Dark-eyed Junco is the bird that I delight most in seeing at our feeder stations. Its arrival in the fall signals a new season of winter bird-watching enjoyment. Regardless of the size of the flock, each little junco with its short pink bill, slate gray body & white belly, seems to mind its own business as it goes about foraging the ground for insects and stray seeds or sitting in a flat feeder taking advantage of an easily accessible spread.
At the first hint of a predator, off they all fly with a flash of white outer tail feathers as their gray bodies disappear into the safety of nearby trees. When danger abates, here comes one, then another and another until the flock gathers once again to resume feasting. When snow arrives and it is particularly cold, the juncos can be found perched on a limb or in a bush, all puffed up in a cute ball of gray and white feathers, their pink bill a contrast to their gray heads.
The Dark-eyed Juncos are a joy to watch each winter, so when spring knocks on the door and the juncos begin their departure north, a tinge of sadness hits. The sadness is fleeting, though, for it is tempered by the fact that they will return again someday. In the meantime, spring’s arrival is an indicator that other migratory birds with their own delightful characteristics will be on their way soon.
Thanks to everyone who participated and shared their stories this season! Vote for the Grand Prize winner in our BirdSpotter Photo contest happening now! Visit our BirdSpotter Homepage for more information and to vote!
Congratulations to our BirdSpotter Judges’ Choice winner for the “Boring is Beautiful” category, Muhammad Arif, for this shot of a Red-winged Blackbird taken in Montezuma, NY! Muhammad wins prizes from Wild Birds Unlimited and is entered in our Grand Prize contest. He says:
This red-winged blackbird was displaying in early spring and using my car as a blind, I captured this image through the window. I love how the tail is fanned out and those specs of reddish color on the back.
The BirdSpotter weekly contests have ended, so this means it’s time for the Grand Prize contest! All weekly winners from the 2018-2019 Birdspotter Photo contest are eligible to win. Voting is open TODAY, and will close on Thursday, March 7th, 2019. Winners will be announced Friday, March 8th, and receive prizes from the Cornell Lab and our sponsor, Wild Birds UnlimitedLearn more about the BirdSpotter contest.
Congratulations to our BirdSpotter People’s Choice winner, Ostdrossel of Macomb, MI, for this portrait of a Mourning Dove! She describes below how she came up with the title of her photograph:
This Dove came to the feeder on a snowy morning with a tiny bit of sun. Their subtle beauty often becomes more visible to me in close-up shots. There are so many colors and patterns to discover, and it is all one beautiful composition. The bird looked so serene and content but also somewhat distant in this photo that it reminded me of the Mona Lisa
The BirdSpotter weekly contests have ended, so this means it’s time for the Grand Prize contest! All weekly winners from the 2018-2019 Birdspotter Photo contest are eligible to win. Voting begins Saturday, March 2nd, and will end on Thursday, March 7th, 2019. Winners will be announced Friday, March 8th, and receive prizes from the Cornell Lab and our sponsor, Wild Birds Unlimited
| Leucistic Black-chinned Hummingbird by Vineeth Radhakrishnan |
Congratulations to our BirdSpotter Judges’ Choice winner, Vineeth Radhakrishnan of Kerrville, Texas, for this ghostly shot of a Black-chinned Hummingbird! Vineeth says he felt fortunate to get an opportunity to photograph this rare find.
There are several types of color variants – and birds sporting these abnormalities are among the hardest to identify. In terms of pigment loss, birds can be affect by both albanism and leucism. Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents the production of melanin (but not other pigments, such as carotenoids); consequently, it is possible for a bird to be albinistic and still have color, although most consider true albinism to be an absence of all pigment. Leucism refers to an abnormality in the deposition of pigment in feathers. The condition can result in a reduction in all types of pigment, causing pale or muted colors on the entire bird. Or the condition can cause irregular patches of white, and birds with these white patches are sometimes described as “pied” or “piebald.” This third type of mutation that results in pied birds is called partial albinism by some and leucism by others.
Albinistic birds have pink eyes because without melanin in the body, the only color in the eyes comes from the blood vessels behind the eyes. It is possible for a bird to be completely white and still have melanin in the body, as when a white bird has dark eyes. In this case the bird would be considered leucistic because the mutation only applies to depositing melanin in the feathers, not the absence of melanin in the body.
Submissions are still open for the final BirdSpotter category Boring is Beautiful. Submit your photo by midnight Eastern Time on Thursday, February 28, for a chance to win and be entered in our Grand Prize Contest! Winners will be announced on Friday, March 1. Biweekly People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice winners receive prizes from the Cornell Lab and our sponsor, Wild Birds Unlimited and are entered into the final Grand Prize contest. Anyone can participate in the BirdSpotter contest by entering a photo and voting for their favorites. Voting for the current category is open now, and voting for the Grand Prize winners begins March 2nd. Find out more about the BirdSpotter contest.
Congratulations to our seventh and penultimate BirdSpotter People’s Choice winner, Walt Cochran of Gardner, Kansas! Walt garnered the most votes for this stunning photo of a Short-eared Owl. He shares his heart-warming story:
While driving one evening along the dam of a local lake, I was very surprised to have this young Short-eared Owl fly up from the spillway and surprise me – it was pretty late in the evening and the sun was going down. This owl, as well as several others, were hunting the grassy side of the spillway. I had my camera with me and this little guy allowed me to back-up and take a close-up! I wish the light would have been better as I had to shoot the image hand-held from my car with a super high ISO setting. THE BEST PART OF THIS experience was that my disabled daughter who likes to take “birding and wildlife” drives with me was able to see one of the awesome owls close-up from our wheelchair van.
Short-eared Owls can be found over most of North America, depending on the time of year. They won’t come to your feeders, but are frequently seen in daylight. Search for them in winter (unless you live in the northern U.S. or Canada) in open fields, grasslands or airports at dawn or dusk. You’ll want to watch out for their black-rimmed yellow eyes close to the ground, where they may be sitting, or flying low hunting for small mammals.
Submissions are open for the final BirdSpotter category Boring is Beautiful. Submit your photo by midnight Eastern Time on Thursday, February 28, 2019 for a chance to win! These final winners will be announced on Friday, March 1, and will be entered into the Grand Prize contest (between all Award Winners). Voting for the Grand Prize winners will open March 2nd! Biweekly People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice winners receive prizes from the Cornell Lab and our sponsor, Wild Birds Unlimited. Anyone can participate by entering a photo and voting for their favorites. Find out more about the BirdSpotter contest.
Elizabeth is creating an outdoor classroom for her students. She built the feeding station with advice from her local Wild Birds Unlimited store, filling it with a multitude of feeders and a hanging bird bath. She says her class’s favorites are WBU’s seed cylinders that are in the shapes of animals: Olive & Hoot the owl, Rascal the raccoon, Preston the penguin, and Peanut the squirrel.
We love the White-breasted Nuthatch because he makes us laugh how he eats upside down and loves to spread his wings. We also love to watch the Downy Woodpecker hop along the tree branches. The class insists that he loves to get his picture taken.
When we asked how Elizabeth uses FeederWatch in her classroom, she described how the class uses the project to learn about what real scientists do and how they record their data. The class has been making homemade bird feeders made from recyclable materials and brought them home to use when they participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count happening now (Feb 15-18 2019,
Congratulations to our BirdSpotter Judges’ Choice winner, Justin Springer of El Paso, TX, for this close-up shot of a Pyrrhuloxia! Justin was sitting in a bird blind at Franklin Mountains State Park when he saw this bird, and described his experience:
I’m pretty sure this little guy knew I was trying to get his photo so he kept taunting me. He would stay just far enough back in the brush to keep me from getting a clear shot and a couple times he flew right at me and I’m pretty sure he landed on top of the blind. After about half an hour of this I guess he finally felt sorry for me and landed on a branch in the open and then tilted his head giving me this quizzical “Are you going to take this photo or just sit there?” look. He sat still long enough for me to click off a couple frames and then disappeared.
Pyrrhuloxia are closely related to Northern Cardinals, but they are a crisp gray and red, with a longer, elegant crest and a stubby, parrotlike yellow bill. They live in the desert scrub of the Southwest but will come to backyards for seeds, particularly sunflower. Pyrrhuloxia are more likely to feed from ground feeders or from scattered or discarded seeds than visit elevated feeders. They may also feed from native, fruit-bearing shrubs or cacti. Learn more about Pyrrhuloxia.
Submissions are still open for the current BirdSpotter category The Unexpected. Submit your photo by midnight Eastern Time on Thursday, February 14, for a chance to win! Winners will be announced on Friday and Saturday, February 22 and 23. Biweekly People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice winners receive prizes from the Cornell Lab and our sponsor, Wild Birds Unlimited. Anyone can participate by entering a photo and voting for their favorites. Find out more about the BirdSpotter contest.
Congratulations to our sixth BirdSpotter People’s Choice winner, Rodney Wright of Gardner, Kansas! Rodney says:
I was photographing this female Northern Cardinal when all the sudden a wind gust blew from behind her. It blew her crest forward making for a perfect “crown!”
The Cardinal family is made up of a several species – tanagers, buntings, grosbeaks and Dickcissels – and we had a representative from each of these groups submitted to this BirdSpotter category! You can see all of our Eyecatching photos in the BirdSpotter gallery. You are most likely to attract cardinals and grosbeaks to your feeders, though Indigo and Painted Buntings have been known to come to feeders too! Attract most of these species with sunflower seeds, safflower, and peanut hearts; buntings like smaller seeds such as thistle and nyjer, and may also eat mealworms.
Submissions are open for the current BirdSpotter category The Unexpected. Submit your photo by midnight Eastern Time on Thursday, February 14, 2019 for a chance to win! Winners will be announced on Friday and Saturday, February 22 and 23. Biweekly People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice winners receive prizes from the Cornell Lab and our sponsor, Wild Birds Unlimited. Anyone can participate by entering a photo and voting for their favorites. Find out more about the BirdSpotter contest.
For the third season in a row, Cornell Lab and our sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited are rewarding registered FeederWatchers with BirdSpotter prizes. After entering bird counts (aka data) into the FeederWatch website, participants have the opportunity to share a story, memory, or tip. Our third Data Entry contest prompt was:
Regularly watching your feeder area gives you a greater chance at witnessing an incredible event! Tell us about a memorable moment that occurred at or near your feeders.
Congratulations to our randomly selected winner, Ann Walsh! Ann wrote about an unusual Black-capped
Chickadee that came to her feeders one day:
Though it seems like it would be a pretty big obstacle for this bird, Ann happily reports that the chickadee was able to eat, and, because it was seen in winter, that means it has successfully survived many months since fledging (perhaps years!). Birds with odd looking bills have been seen by other FeederWatchers too. In the early 2000s, Project FeederWatch collected 215 reports of bill deformities; Black-capped Chickadees were reported most frequently, making up 30% of the reports. In 2016, a team of researchers identified a novel virus that has been linked to deformed bills, otherwise known as Avian Keratin Disorder. You can learn more about their research and view a gallery of Unusual Bird photos on our website.
Thanks to everyone who participated and shared their stories! Participants can still submit their story to our latest prompt. Enter to win on the Count Summary page that appears after you submit your next FeederWatch count online at FeederWatch.org. Interested in becoming a FeederWatcher? Join the fun and you could win great prizes!