The Bird Cams Lab Experience: What We Learned From External Evaluation

October 21, 2021

During 2018–21, people from around the world teamed up with one another and scientists to learn more about birds on the Cornell Lab’s Bird Cams.

Figure 1. The locations of Bird Cams Lab participants for the last four investigations: Cornell Feeders Live, Battling Birds: Panama, Hawk Happenings, and Panama Live. 

We invited everyone, regardless of prior knowledge or experience, to engage at any or all stages of the scientific process: observation, question design, data collection, data exploration, and reporting. More than 16,000 people joined the project.

Figure 2. An overview of participation for the last four investigations: Cornell Feeders Live, Battling Birds: Panama, Hawk Happenings, and Panama Live.

This year, we worked with an external evaluation team from Rockman et al. to understand participant experiences and how participation in the co-created process relates to learning and behavior outcomes.

We are thrilled to share what the evaluation team found from the last three Bird Cams Lab investigations: Cornell Feeders Live, Battling Birds: Panama, and Hawk Happenings.

An infographic that highlights Evaluation findings. There is a visual showing that there were more than 16,000 individuals engaged in the final three investigations. Of those, 76% read emails or observed the cams. 24% were active contributors to one or more main stages of the scientific process. This includes four stages: Question Design, Data collection, Data Exploration, Reporting. Active contributors gained knowledge about birds, increased understanding and skill in scientific inquiry, and enhanced confidence in knowledge of birds and ability to contribute to science. No such gains for those who read emails. Anyone can participate. Investigations enabled anyone with Internet connection to join in wildlife research, including 11% of survey respondents (495) who identified as homebound, disabled, or stay-at-home caretakers. Participation led to behavior changes. Survey respondents initially engaged in fewer activities related to birds and environmental stewardship were involved in more activities after participating: donating to organization that helps wildlife, taking actino to protect birds, and feeding wild birds. Most participant don't prefer co-creation. Most respondents (66%) said they were happy to participate, regardless of whether the research question was chosen by a resaercher or the community. Only 18% perferred a co-created process in choosing research questions, and 16% preferred scientist-led investigations. AT the bottom fo the infographic is the Rockman et al. logo and the National Science Foundation logo with language that refers to how the material is supported by Grant #1713225 and findings are those of authors and not the National Science Foundation.

Want to learn more?

Check out the full evaluation report by Rockman et al on We thank all participants for sharing their time, data, and insights to help advance a new model for scientific discovery and learning through online co-created investigations.

Photo credit: Red-winged Blackbird male by Jeff Bleam / Macaulay Library; Red-winged Blackbird female by David Bohrer / Macaulay Library