Since its inception, thousands of people have participated in this and similar programs. Over the years, staff at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have worked to perfect these programs by conducting regular participant surveys, which are used to develop a profile of the participants and determine which aspects of the program are most popular and how best to ensure that participants are able to make valuable scientific contributions and are themselves well served.
The surveys reveal that typical participants tended to be college-educated white women over the age of 50 who, despite having watched or fed birds for years, still see themselves as intermediate birders. The vast majority of the participants make use of the website features, such as Rare Bird Reports, the Map Room, the Top 25 list of birds, the Personal County Summaries, or the State/Province Summaries. More than half of participants use such scientific tools as creating trend graphs for specific bird species.
When participants were asked if they have learned about birds from this project, the results were encouraging. About 50 percent said that they learned there was a greater diversity of species than they had known about before; 64 percent said that they had learned to identify more species; 74 percent said that they observed interesting behaviors; and 70 percent said that they learned how birds change throughout the seasons. Only 6 percent of the participants said that they didn’t learn anything as a result of their involvement in the project.
Comments also show that the project added value to an existing hobby by providing tools that allowed participants to deepen their experience. A participant from North Carolina remarked, “I loved feeding and watching the birds before, but now it is so much more interesting and useful.”
A birdwatcher from New Mexico described how the project improved basic birdwatching skills: “After participating in Project FeederWatch for several seasons, my bird identification skills have improved immensely. This winter, I found myself identifying birds by their behavior: how they fly into the feeding site, where they land, if they sit or take right off again, and which feeder they choose.”