Climate Watch FAQ's

Frequently asked questions about Audubon's Climate Watch program

About Climate Watch
How is climate change affecting birds?
How does Climate Watch benefit birds?
How can I participate in Climate Watch?
When can I participate in Climate Watch?
Why does Climate Watch take place in winter and summer?
Why conduct Climate Watch surveys instead of using data from other community science programs like the Christmas Bird Count, Breeding Bird Survey, and eBird?
What are the potential roles for Climate Watch volunteers?
How can I find a Climate Watch Coordinator near me?
What are the Climate Watch target species and why focus on target species?
Where can I find resources to promote Climate Watch in my area?

Planning Your Participation
Where can I view maps of predicted change in climate suitability for target species in my area?
What are Climate Watch squares and where can I see them?
How can I find a Climate Watch Square Identification Code?
What do the predictions of improving, worsening, and no change/stasis mean for the target species in those squares?
What factors should I consider when choosing Climate Watch squares to survey?
What factors should I consider when selecting survey points?
How should I identify habitat for the target species?
Should survey points be distributed evenly throughout the square?
Should I survey the same points across different seasons and years of Climate Watch?

Conducting Surveys
How many people should participate in conducting a Climate Watch survey?
How long does it take to finish surveying all 12 points within a square?
Can I bird for longer than five minutes at each point?
Is it necessary to wait after arriving at a survey location before starting the five-minute survey?
How far from my survey point should I count birds?​
Should I conduct surveys in poor weather?
What should I do if weather conditions change while conducting surveys?
Can I survey in areas with nest boxes or bird feeders?
Can I use bird call playback or other sound-based attractants in our Climate Watch survey?

Submitting Data
How do I submit my Climate Watch data?
What data do I need to include in each survey checklist?
How do I capture location data?
If I do not see any target species on my survey, should I still submit my data?
What does the question “are you reporting all of the species you were able to identify” mean and why should I always answer “yes” for Climate Watch surveys?
How do I make my checklist comments publicly viewable?

Climate Watch Results
Where can I explore the results of Climate Watch Surveys?
 

About Climate Watch

How is climate change affecting birds?

Audubon's Birds and Climate Change Report, released in 2014, shows that 314 species of North American birds will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080. Audubon scientists drew on three decades of citizen-scientist observations from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the North American Breeding Bird Survey to define “climatic suitability” for each bird species—the range of temperatures, precipitation, and seasonal changes each species needs to survive. Then, using internationally recognized greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, they mapped where each bird’s ideal climatic range may be found in the future as the climate changes.

Of the 588 North American bird species Audubon studied, about half are likely to be in trouble. These birds will see their climatic ranges shrink, shift, or expand in the coming decades, but whether or not birds are able to shift or expand into new areas will depend on whether appropriate habitat and food sources are present.

How does Climate Watch benefit birds?

Your participation in Climate Watch provides Audubon scientists with data on the current distribution of target species that can be used to validate and refine our models for where these species’ ranges will shift under the effects of climate change. As we ground-truth these models and confirm and improve their accuracy we will use them to identify areas of high climatic suitability for target species and to inform on-the-ground conservation decisions.  

How can I participate in Climate Watch?

Climate Watch is open to birders of all ages across the United States. Check out how to get involved by conducting surveys in your area.

When can I participate in Climate Watch?

Climate Watch takes place during two seasons each year, in the winter, from January 15 to February 15 and in the summer, May 15 to June 15. Participants can conduct surveys on one or more days of each count period. Repeat surveys of the same points season to season are particularly valuable in showing change in occupancy of our target species, so please consider continuing your participation across seasons.

Why does Climate Watch take place in winter and summer?

The goal of Climate Watch is to capture changes in the breeding and wintering activity of target species. Although the timing of breeding and arrival on wintering grounds varies across species and across the country, these timeframes (May 15 – June 15 and January 15 – February 15) do a good job of capturing those parts of their lifecycle, despite this variability.

Why conduct Climate Watch surveys instead of using data from other community science programs like the Christmas Bird Count, Breeding Bird Survey, and eBird?

Climate Watch surveys are designed specifically to answer questions about the detectability and abundance of target species within areas projected to experience changes in climate suitability. This means that surveys are often set in areas where target species don’t yet occur, but climate change analyses suggest they might be shifting into. The surveys are set up to directly test the Birds and Climate Report models for each species, at a fine-scale resolution, with a structured protocol so that data are collected to help calculate detection, occupancy and abundance estimates. Data from other programs are less structured and do not allow for as rich of an analysis but are often included to complement our detailed Climate Watch data set.

Additionally, we need count periods to occur at the same time each year (January 15-February 15 or May 15-June 15) in order to be comparable to other Climate Watch surveys happening during the same time, as well as year to year. We selected these time periods to better capture target species as close to their true wintering or breeding grounds as possible for most of the country. Both CBC and Climate Watch data are needed together to improve our body of knowledge about how birds are affected by climate change.

What are the potential roles for Climate Watch volunteers?

Much like with the Christmas Bird Count there are different potential roles for individuals interested in volunteering Climate Watch:

Regional Coordinator: Volunteers who facilitate the Climate Watch program at a state or regional level, by identifying, recruiting, and training local coordinators and connecting individual volunteers with coordinated efforts in their state.

Local Coordinator: Volunteers who manage their group or area’s participation in Climate Watch by recruiting participants, training them to plan and conduct Climate Watch surveys, and ensuring that the data they collect are submitted to the national Climate Watch team. The coordinator also communicates the science and rationale behind the program, including providing information on the predicted future range changes of the target species. Coordinators also serve as the main point of contact with the national Climate Watch team and help to improve the program by providing feedback based on their group’s experiences.

Participant: Volunteers who complete Climate Watch counts in collaboration with their group’s Climate Watch coordinator or individually in areas without a current coordinated effort. Participants serve a critical role, collecting data that will both validate the current projections of Audubon’s climate models and help us understand how birds are responding to climate change mediated range shifts.  Participants will also gain valuable field monitoring skills.

How can I find a Climate Watch coordinator near me?

You can view a list of active Climate Watch coordinators and their contact information on the Climate Watch Coordinator Listing.

What are the Climate Watch target species and why focus on target species?

The current target species are bluebirds and nuthatches: Eastern Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, and Western Bluebird and Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and White-breasted Nuthatch.

Climate Watch focuses on conducting surveys for target species so that we can collect a large data set that we can use to perform robust analyses on how climate change affects these representative species.

Climate Watch focuses on these species in particular because their ranges cover most of the United States, they are easy to identify, and nearly all are considered climate-threatened in Audubon's Birds and Climate Change Report. We plan to expand the project to include additional target species in the future.

Where can I find resources to promote Climate Watch in my area?

Promotional materials, including social media content, sample newsletter text, posters, flyers, and a PowerPoint presentation are available on the Coordinator Resources page


Planning Your Participation

Where can I view maps of predicted change in climate suitability for target species in my area?

You can see range-wide models for change in climate suitability for target species on the species profile page (coming soon) and explore the predicted change in climate suitability for target species in the 2020’s in your area through the ESRI Climate Watch Planner. You can view detailed instructions on how to use the ESRI Climate Watch Planner here (coming soon).

What are Climate Watch squares and where can I see them?

We have divided our predictions in change in climate suitability for target species into a continuous grid of 10x10km squares, each of which has a value from -1 to 1 indicating the change in climate suitability from the 2000’s to the 2020’s for that target species. You can view thee predictions on the ESRI Climate Watch Planner and view a map of Climate Watch squares and claim your own on the Claim a Climate Watch Square Tool.

How can I find a Climate Watch Square Identification Code?

When viewing predicted change in climate suitability grids on the ESRI Climate Watch Planner or the Claim a Climate Watch Square Tool you can click on a square to view it’s unique identification code in the format USA-XX-##### (where XX is the state code, and the five digit number is the unique Climate Watch square number).

What do the predictions of improving, worsening, and no change/stasis mean for the target species in those squares?

Climate Watch maps now include data from Audubon’s latest climate models which use climate and habitat data correlated with past bird observations to predict the climate suitability of a given area for each target species in 2025. Gain indicates that the area is predicted to have improving climate suitability for a given species, worsening indicates that it is predicted to have decreasing climate suitability, and no change or stasis indicates that its climate suitability is predicted to stay the same. Surveys from areas of the highest gain or loss of climate suitability are most valuable in testing these predictions and surveys from no change or stasis squares are valuable for calculating baseline detectability for these species.

What factors should I consider when choosing Climate Watch squares to survey?

First, prioritize squares that have the strongest predictions for loss or gain (the darkest blue or brightest yellow squares). Surveys from gray stasis squares are also valuable and there may not be any blue or yellow squares in your area for a given species and season. From there prioritize the squares with the best habitat for the target species based on satellite maps, local knowledge, and in-person scouting. Finally, be sure squares are physically and legally accessible to participants.

What factors should I consider when selecting survey points?

Select survey points in the best possible publicly accessible habitat for the target species within the square. Survey points should be 200 meters from any other survey point in the square to prevent double-counting. Survey points should be physically and legally accessible—you should be able to drive or walk there safely and have the proper permission to access the property.

How should I identify habitat for the target species?

You can identify the best habitat for target species based on your personal knowledge of the species habitat preferences, the knowledge of your Climate Watch Coordinator or other local experts, the satellite maps and habitat descriptions provided on the Climate Watch website, and/or in-person scouting of the area.

Should survey points be distributed evenly throughout the square?

There is no need to distribute survey points evenly throughout a square. Survey points should be at least 200 meters apart and should be selected based on the best potential habitat for the target species regardless of their distribution within the square.

Should I survey the same points across different seasons and years of Climate Watch?

While you may target different areas across the summer and winter seasons based on differences between winter and summer habitats for target species, it is best to return to the same survey points each winter and another set of survey points each summer. Surveying these same points (or as close as possible) winter after winter and summer after summer provides us with more valuable data on long-term changes in occupancy.
 

Conducting Surveys

How many people should participate in conducting a Climate Watch survey?

We ask that Climate Watch surveys be conducted by 1-3 individuals whenever possible. Larger groups tend to be louder and are more likely to be distracted, leading to a change in their chance of detecting a target species. No matter how many people participate in your surveys, be sure to note the number of observers when submitting your data.

How long does it take to finish surveying all 12 points within a square?

Depending on travel time between points and conditions, conducting the 12 point counts within a square should take anywhere from two to six hours.

Can I bird for longer than five minutes at each point?

You may bird for longer than five minutes at your survey location, but please only record and enter the observations from the first five minutes for Climate Watch purposes. Keeping your recorded counts to 5 minutes ensures that all Climate Watch surveys are done in the same manner, and are comparable within the statistical analyses. You can submit your other observations on separate eBird checklists.

Is it necessary to wait after arriving at a survey location before starting the five-minute survey?

No, it is not necessary to wait any length of time before beginning your five-minute survey.

How far from my survey point should I count birds?

You should record all of the individual birds and species that you are able to detect by sight or sound within 100 meters of your survey location. Species and individuals outside of the 100 meters should not be included in Climate Watch checklists. Use your best estimate to determine the 100 meter survey distance.

Should I conduct surveys in poor weather?

Conduct your surveys only if the conditions will not jeopardize your safety or impact the detectability of target species. A light breeze or intermittent precipitation will not affect detectability, but avoid conducting counts in steady rain, snow, or during periods of high winds.

What should I do if weather conditions change while conducting surveys?

If weather conditions or other unforeseeable delays occur, the late afternoon period is an option if conditions improve and it is preferable to complete a set of point counts in one day including the late afternoon than to split them over multiple days. If conditions do not improve, please complete the surveys as soon as possible on another day.

Can I survey in areas with nest boxes or bird feeders?

Feel free to select survey locations with nest boxes and feeders within the survey area. Please note the number of nest boxes or feeders in the comments of your checklists for those surveys.

Can I use bird call playback or other sound-based attractants in our Climate Watch survey?

With the development of technology, call playback to attract birds has become more common in the birding community. Although we understand that this may increase your chances of seeing certain bird species, we ask participants in Climate Watch surveys to refrain from using bird call playback, predator call playback, as well as “pishing” and other bird call mimicking. The Climate Watch protocol was developed to measure detection of the target species, and the use of playback and mimicking can interfere with our ability to get an accurate estimate of a species true detection in the field.

Submitting Data

How do I submit my Climate Watch data?

If you collected your data using eBird, once you have conducted your surveys log in to your eBird account at eBird.org and go to My eBird, Manage My Checklists. From there open each of your Climate Watch checklists using the View or edit link and copy and paste the URLs into a single email to climatewatch@audubon.org. We will be offering a data submission portal within the Audubon app in the near future.

What data do I need to include in each survey checklist?

For each survey we ask that you submit an eBird checklist with the start time, duration (5 minutes), the number of observers, location (latitude and longitude), the total number of individuals of each bird species that you observed, and include the presence of any nest boxes or feeders, and which target species you selected habitat for in the comments section.

How do I capture location data?

The easiest way to capture your location is to use the eBird mobile app to submit your observations from the field—the app can automatically capture your location data when you start a new checklist. It is available free on both iOS and Android. Alternatively, you can use a GPS device, paper maps to correlate your location with Google Maps, or another smartphone application to capture your latitude and longitude in the format of decimal degrees, DDD.DDDDDD°, not degrees, minutes, and seconds.

If I do not see any target species on my survey, should I still submit my data?

Yes! The absence of the target species is a very important data point. The models predict where the target species will be showing up or abandoning habitat during the next fifteen years. We need all data, including the absence of birds, in order to observe changes like this and tell the full story. Be sure to enter and submit a complete checklist of the birds seen during Climate Watch surveys even if the target species was not observed.

What does the question “are you reporting all of the species you were able to identify” mean and why should I always answer “yes” for Climate Watch surveys?

This important question is asked about every bird observation submitted to eBird. Answering yes does not mean you were able to identify every bird you observed in the survey area, but rather that you are not intentionally excluding a species that you were able to identify from your checklist. Answering yes is important for Climate Watch checklists as this allows us to infer the absence of any target species you are not reporting in a given survey area.

How do I make my checklist comments publicly viewable?

The default setting in eBird hides your checklist comments from the public data. In order to allow the Climate Watch team to access your target species data and the presence of nest boxes or feeders, log in to eBird.org, go to My eBird, select My eBird Preferences, uncheck the box next to “Hide my checklist comments” and then save your changes.


Conducting Surveys

Where can I explore the results of Climate Watch Surveys?

You can explore the results of Climate Watch surveys on the Climate Watch Results page

 

×