Want to use your birding skills to advance our understanding of climate change's impact on birds? Then Climate Watch is for you.
This innovative community-science program enlists volunteer birders across North America to survey for one of our twelve target species in the same place (or places) twice each year. By sticking to a scientific protocol and sharing their results, these community scientists help track whether birds are moving in accordance with projections from Audubon's climate models.
This is a scientific effort, so following the protocol precisely is important. To that end, Audubon has recruited a network of Climate Watch Coordinators to help participants get the technical details right, including the selection of a survey plot and sharing results with Audubon's climate scientists.
Want to participate in Climate Watch?
Climate Watch participants do not need to be expert birders, but should know how identify target species by sight and sound or be interested in learning to do so.
Click here to find a Climate Watch Coordinator in your area. The coordinator will provide the information you need to get started.
If there is no coordinator nearby, you can still participate on your own by reading through the materials and planning your surveys with our online tools. Click here to learn more about the scientific protocol.
Are you an experienced birder interested in becoming a Climate Watch Coordinator?
Climate Watch Coordinators are volunteers who manage their area’s participation in Climate Watch by recruiting participants, coordinating their efforts, and ensuring that the data they collect are submitted to the national Climate Watch team.
Interested in becoming a group coordinator? Sign up here and then read through the steps on the coordinator page here.
Curious about Climate Watch?
Sign up here to get periodic email updates about the program and be the first to hear about future opportunities to participate.
Climate Watch takes place during winter (January 15-February 15) and summer (May 15-June 15) each year. Participants are free to conduct their surveys on any one day during these time windows.
Volunteers generally can complete one survey square in two to four hours (12 five-minute point counts per square) on one morning. Surveys should be started in the morning and completed before noon, or if weather is an obstacle, started in the afternoon and completed before sunset. If you would like to survey more than one square, we would welcome your energy!
Climate Watch focuses on these target species: Eastern Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, Western Bluebird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinch, Painted Bunting, Eastern Towhee, and Spotted Towhee. These birds are easy to identify, have an enthusiastic constituency, and Audubon’s climate models for these species offer strong predictions for range shifts for us to test. In future years, Climate Watch may include additional target species threatened by climate change.
Climate Watch focuses on areas of predicted change for these 12 species at each location across the continent. Audubon provides volunteers with online mapping tools with a grid of 10 km x 10 km squares showing species-specific predictions for each square based on the climate models. A Climate Watch Coordinator can help select your location and survey square. If you are participating on your own, use the online maps to decide in which square to do your surveys. You will be able to see which squares are already "claimed".
How to count
Volunteers should first make sure to read through all of the materials including the full protocol manual. The Climate Watch protocol is different than any other birding program. Then using the planning done with the online maps, volunteers survey appropriate habitat for the target species within a square and conduct 12 point counts of five minutes each within one morning, then record the number and species of all birds seen or heard within 100 meters.
How data will be used
Audubon’s 2019 climate change report, ‘Survival By Degrees,’ reveals that up to two-thirds of North American birds are vulnerable to extinction due to climate change. For example, the beautiful Mountain Bluebird is vulnerable because in the vast majority of its summer range, the climate conditions that this bird needs—temperature, amount of rainfall, and other environmental factors—will shift northward and eastward. This bird may be able to move into new areas over time, or it may struggle to adapt. To test the report’s predictions, Audubon has developed Climate Watch, which aims to document species’ responses to climate change and test Audubon’s climate models by having volunteers in the field look for birds where Audubon’s climate models predict they will be in the 2020s. This information helps Audubon target our conservation work to protect birds. See the Climate Watch results page here to see our early reports and results from the data received by Climate Watch volunteers so far!