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International Journal of Zoology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 710710, 6 pages
Research Article

Reviving a Legacy Citizen Science Project to Illuminate Shifts in Bird Phenology

1USGS, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, BARC-East, Building 308, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA
2College of Agricultural, Forest, and Environmental Sciences, Clemson University, Lehotsky Hall Clemson, SC 29634, USA
3Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Georgetown University, St. Mary's Hall, 37th and O Streets, NW Washington, DC 20057, USA

Received 2 March 2012; Accepted 26 April 2012

Academic Editor: Richard Stafford

Copyright © 2012 Jessica Zelt et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Climate change has been of high interest to both the scientific community and the public at large since the phenomenon was first suggested. Subsequently, and with growing evidence of its impending ramifications, numerous studies have attempted to illuminate climate change impacts on bird migration. Migration is a key event in the annual cycle in the reproductive success of birds, and changes in migration in response to climate may indicate that species populations are at risk. Previous studies report earlier arrival dates in response to climate change in many bird species, although specific mechanisms are often difficult to explain at broad spatial and temporal scales. Using a newly revived dataset of historical migration cards for over 870 species and spanning 90 years throughout North America, we are developing an historical baseline of bird arrival dates to compare with contemporary records. Here we chronicle the history and reemergence of the North American Bird Phenology Program. We present two case studies illustrating how data from this program has been used to model historical arrival dates of Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) and Purple Martin (Progne subis) throughout eastern North America. Our results show the importance of considering spatial and temporal variability in understanding patterns of bird spring arrivals.