Help Track Climate Change's Impact on Bird Habitat!

Photo by Patrick Ready

Photo by Patrick Ready

Climate Watch is a program that 100% builds off of the involvement of you - the local birder. National Audubon Society produced a report predicting that hundreds of bird species will lose 50% or more of their habitat in the next 65 years due to climate change. A few species, like the one we're looking into – the Eastern Bluebird – is predicted to actually gain habitat in some places.

Madison Audubon volunteers can help track climate change by conducting bluebird surveys. This program occurs twice a year, in winter between January 15-February 15 and in summer between May 15-June 15. You can participate in one or both seasons! The data volunteers collect are extremely important - they ground-truth the models that predict climate and habitat changes, and allow researchers to tweak the models to make them as accurate as possible. As a result, we'll have better predictions for how the climate and landscape will change, and bird species along with them. 

MAS Photo

MAS Photo

The best part? You get to spend the morning outside and looking at birds!

Joining is easy! 
Step 1: Email Brenna to indicate you're interested.
Step 2: Pick out an unclaimed survey square from the map. See below for more instructions.
Step 3: Select 12 locations with good bluebird habitat within that square.
Step 4: Do a 5-minute point count at each spot, and complete all 12 point counts within one day during the survey period (Jan. 15-Feb. 15 or May 15-June 15).
Step 5: Email in your eBird checklists.

That's it! Get your friends, get outdoors, and get birding! And after the fun is over, you'll rest easy knowing your data are helping scientists understand how we can help our feathered friends during these times of change. Sign up today.

Learn more about the program by visiting the National Audubon's Climate Watch website. Questions? Contact Brenna Marsicek at or 608-255-2473.

Claiming your square

The claimed and available squares around Madison for surveying eastern bluebirds, as of April 23.

The claimed and available squares around Madison for surveying eastern bluebirds, as of April 23.

We use the Climate Watch "Claim your Grid Square" tool to sort out which volunteer will survey within a given area. Click this link to access the tool, then zoom in to the area you'd like to survey. Then:

  1. In the teal toolbar in the upper left, click on the icon that looks like three pages stacked on top of each other,
  2. Check the box next to Eastern Bluebird.
    Squares that turn red or orange are claimed for the summer survey period already. Squares that are blue, yellow, or not colored are up for grabs!
  3. Click on the square you would like to claim, 
  4. Hit the "edit" button in the bottom right of that pop-up window,
  5. Type your name into the "Eastern Bluebird (summer)" box, and
  6. Hit enter or tab.

Once you do that, that square is yours for this survey period! Be sure to email Brenna ( to indicate you're participating so you can receive additional information and guidance.

If all of the squares in the area you're interested in are claimed, you can survey for white-breasted or red-breasted nuthatches instead. Follow the same procedure as listed above, but for Step 2 check the white-breasted or red-breasted nuthatch box, and in Step 5 enter your name into that species' summer survey box.


MAS Photo

MAS Photo

Where: Madison Audubon chapter area (Dane, Columbia, Sauk, Iowa, Richland, Jefferson, Dodge, and Marquette counties).

You will work with us to find a designated survey location ("square") within our chapter, as well as 12 survey points within the square. A survey is completed when all 12 points have been surveyed for 5 minutes.

When: A day of the volunteer's choice between January 15 and February 15 for winter, or between May 15 and June 15 for summer.

Each survey requires doing 5 minute point counts in 12 nearby locations, which typically takes 3-6 hours - and should be completed by noon.

How: After identifying the location and points for survey, volunteers will conduct point counts 5 minutes a-piece, counting all of the individuals of Eastern Bluebird within 100 meters, as well as any other bird species they're able to identify. Data are submitted as eBird checklists and emailed to the Climate Change team.

What then? Climate Watch will analyze all of data you and others collected during the survey period and plug it into their models. They will share with all of us the findings of the survey effort (including how it is/isn't different from previous events' findings and where to go from there).

Banner photo by Dave Thomas, Flickr Creative Commons