A White-breasted Nuthatch descends the trunk of a tree.
Get Involved

Climate Watch

Want to use your birding skills to advance our understanding of climate change's impact on birds? Then Climate Watch is for you!
A White-breasted Nuthatch Photo: Gary Churchill / Audubon Photography Awards
A White-breasted Nuthatch Photo: Gary Churchill / Audubon Photography Awards
Get Involved

Climate Watch

Want to use your birding skills to advance our understanding of climate change's impact on birds? Then Climate Watch is for you!

Due to COVID-19 volunteers must follow these guidelines for the Winter 2022 Climate Watch survey period. 

Sign up to learn about program announcements for Climate Watch in 2022: click here.

Climate Watch Surveys take place every winter and spring during the official survey periods:

  • Winter: January 15 - February 15
  • Spring: May 15 - June 15

Audubon's Climate Watch is a community science program that monitors how North American birds are responding to climate change by enlisting volunteers to follow specific protocol when collecting data on target species relevant to their region. The program was born shortly after Audubon released our first climate report in 2014 when thousands of people began asking what they could do in their communities to help conserve birds. Audubon's 2019 climate change report, ‘Survival By Degrees,’ predicts up to two-thirds of North American birds being vulnerable to extinction due to climate change. In light of this report, the need to track how birds are actively responding to climate change has become essential to their conservation. The good news is that one of Audubon’s greatest strengths is our network of volunteers who have been at the forefront of informing the science of bird conservation and climate change since the first Christmas Bird Count over 100 years ago  – Climate Watch continues this tradition of large-scale community science.

Our climate models project how each of the 389 vulnerable species’ range of habitat is going to shift, but we don’t know how long it will take for birds to move to more suitable ranges or if they will move at all. That’s where you come in! Climate watch volunteers survey twice a year, once in the winter and again in the springtime. Participants can choose to survey at any point during this timeframe, but you must finish your survey in one day. 

Participants are encouraged to get into contact with their regional or local Climate Watch coordinators to get started. That being said, there are resources online if you would like to work independently. 

Climate Watch from Audubon.org on Vimeo.

Overview of Climate Watch

How do I get involved?

Step One:  Choose your target species from the following. You will need to be able to identify the species by sight and song as well as choose your Climate Square based on your target species's habitat. Click species name to view Audubon's online field guide or download the Target Species ID Guide.

Step Two: Pick out a 10x10km square from the Climate Watch map using these instructions. Your Climate Square is the area you choose to survey in. This could be a nature center, park or any other area that has suitable habitat for your target species

Step Three: Using the Climate Watch Planner tool, choose 12 points within your climate square where you will survey and that represent the best accessible habitat for your target species. These points need to be at least 200m apart to avoid double counting. 

Step Four: Email Jacob Crawford at Audubon Vermont or our local coordinator for Climate Watch, Sarah Hooghuis with any remaining questions you have. 

Once you have completed these steps, you are ready to get outside and survey! Surveying for one square takes an average of 3-4 hours and each square must be completed within one day. At each of your 12 points you will conduct a 5-minute survey in which you count as many target species as you see. You will pay special attention to your target species, but please note other species as well! It is always helpful to have more information than less.

What data do I need to record?

  • Start time, duration, number of observers, latitude and longitude
  • Total number of each species (target species and other bird species you are able to identify) that you see or hear within 100 meters of your location, line of sight permitting
  • The presence of nest boxes or feeders within the survey area (recorded in comments box if  using eBird)
  • Your target species must be recorded on each checklist.  (If using eBird, this must be placed in the comments box and please make sure that your comments are set as “public” so that we can access them
  • If using eBird be sure to answer “yes” to the question “Are you submitting a complete checklist of the birds you were able to identify?” to indicate you are submitting a complete checklist.

There are three accepted methods to record data: the Audubon mobile app, eBird or on paper.

How do I submit my data to Audubon?

There are four ways to submit your data to Audubon, but due to limited capacity to handle manual data processing we encourage you to submit using one of the first two methods below: 

  • The Audubon app – this is the most user friendly because data can be submitted directly through the app! 
  • ebird
    • Submit your 12 eBird checklist URLS through our portal
    • Email your 12 eBird checklist urls, in one email, to climatewatch@audubon.org
    • When using eBird, please do not use the eBird “Share” feature to submit your data to Audubon.
  • Paper forms are available for your use to download and print at the bottom of the page. Email a scanned copy of your paper checklists to climatewatch@audubon.org

If you're having any trouble with any of these steps, check out our Climate Watch 101 training video:

Additional resources:

Climate Watch FAQs 

2016-2018 Climate Watch Results

Printable bird ID guide of the 12 target species

two-page PDF to provide a general overview of the effort to participants

One-page overview protocol document


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