BirdLab, observe bird behaviour at the feeder
People of all ages may take up birdwatching as a hobby, whether in the countryside or in the city, on their own or in a group. The BirdLab citizen science program harnesses this instinctive interest in birds to better understand and protect these animals, some of which do not migrate every winter and suffer from a lack of food.
What time does such and such a bird feed at? Does it prefer to feed alone or in the company of others of its species? Is there cooperation or competition between individuals? What about between species? Does the environment – rural or urban – influence their behaviour? Have there been changes in behaviour over the years? As you can see, the more observations there are, the more precisely scientists are able to answer the questions they ask to in order decipher biodiversity and understand the changes occurring within it. For that to happen, enough data needs to be collected! This is possible thanks to the BirdLab citizen sciences program and you. Accessible to all, this "serious game" enables you to collect as much information as you can on the feeding behaviour of birds from mid-November to the end of March, all over France.
What preparation do you need to do?
You first have to put out two identical feeders (which can be shop-bought or home-made) on your balcony or terrace, sprinkling sunflower seeds or balls of fat onto them. If you don’t have enough room or if you don’t want to put them out at home, don’t worry. You can take part by going to one of the feeders put out in certain public places. Locate the place you are going to watch from on the BirdLab app, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play. To become a player, you’ll have to complete some fun quizzes. What are the characteristics of a Red-breasted Grosbeak, an Alder Tarin or a Nuthatch? How can you tell a Black tit from a Great tit, a Wood pigeon from a Rock pigeon, or a House sparrow from a Tree sparrow? These quizzes not only help you get to grips with the digital tool, they also give you key info for recognising the feathered creatures targeted by the study. Now you’re ready to go!
The action of the participants goes beyond the mere collection of data, with all comments received being analysed. The more experienced the gamers are, the more they develop their sense of observation, ask questions and communicate useful information to improve the program's protocol: weather conditions, light levels, sound environment, and the presence of non-listed species. They thus take on an active role in terms of optimising the application and identifying issues. A virtuous circle of collective intelligence between scientists and the public.
How to play?
Whenever you feel like it, follow the instructions and reproduce the comings and goings of the birds visiting your feeders in real time, by dragging and dropping the bird icons on your touch screen. As the game progresses, you are awarded badges to collect and share on social media. Each game lasts 5 minutes, but feel free to play one after another!
After each game, your data is stored in a database to be analysed by researchers from AgroParisTech and the National Museum of Natural History (CESCO). And just like that, you’ve made a contribution to science!