Mountain Birdwatch


Thousands of intrepid hikers take to the Northeast's iconic mountain trails each summer. For over a decade, hundreds of these adventurers have carried a pair of binoculars, a stopwatch, and a clipboard. They've become citizen scientists, and you can too by recording birds at a mountain near you.

Rising well before dawn to catch the first trills of the dawn chorus, our volunteers hike in the dark to designated points along trails to count birds. These dedicated citizen scientists are doing their part to help keep the chorus alive for future generations of hikers, birders, and nature lovers.

Bicknell's Thrush at Dawn / © K.P. McFarland

Bicknell’s Thrush at Dawn / © K.P. McFarland

An Innovative Monitoring Project

Mountain Birdwatch (MBW) monitors songbirds that breed in the montane fir and spruce forests of the Northeast. MBW data provide the only region-wide source of population information on these high-elevation breeding birds. MBW’s primary focus is Bicknell’s Thrush, a montane fir specialist that breeds only in the northeastern U.S. and adjacent areas of Canada, but this project also tracks nine other high-elevation avian breeders, red squirrels, and the conifer seeds that these avian nest predators eat. All of these data are online and available to other researchers at the Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity.

Initiated in 2000 in VT, MBW trains citizen scientists to conduct annual counts along survey routes throughout the mountains of New England and New York. In 2010, MBW launched a new and improved design, which included a new statistically-based selection of routes across the northeastern United States, a revised survey protocol to allow for more stringent and intensive statistical analyses, and a collaboration with Canada to develop standardized surveys across all Bicknell’s Thrush breeding habitat.

Here by the numbers is a summary of MBW’s scope.

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