In this issue: find your new plant hardiness zone and prevent window collisions.
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The Dirt: News from YardMap
Joining together to break new ground for birds

April 2014

New plant hardiness zone map
New U.S. plant hardiness zones are now available in YardMap.

New to YardMap: Find Your Updated Plant Hardiness Zone

YardMap's latest feature is the revised U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone map. Plant hardiness zones are geographically defined areas within which only certain plants may grow and thrive. This includes everything from flowers, shrubs, trees, and edible plants, making it a very useful tool to gardeners, farmers, and YardMappers. 

Plant hardiness zones were recently updated to account for increases in average temperature ranges throughout the U.S., as well as the addition of several new zones. Due to these changes, you may be located in a new zone with different plant recommendations. YardMappers can use the new plant hardiness zone feature in combination with your ecoregion to make informed decisions when choosing native plants for your backyard habitat. 

To find your plant hardiness zone in YardMap, enter your zip code under Your Local Resources. A map will appear highlighting your ecoregion. Click on the plant hardiness zone tab located at the top of the map, and a new map will show your plant hardiness zone. The zone name and average temperature range are located below the map. You can even select all plant hardiness zones to be shown, making for a very colorful map. Happy planting!
YardMap is covering ground throughout the world and recognizing
bird-friendly actions.

Growing Backyard Habitat
in Leaps and Bounds

It's clear that YardMappers have been busy over the past two years, drawing maps of their backyards, local parks, nature sanctuaries, and more. We're happy to announce that YardMap has attracted more than 10,000 interested users who have collectively mapped an area greater than the District of Columbia, including as much forest as the Tuskegee National Forest. 

"We were pleasantly surprised when we ran the numbers," notes project leader Rhiannon Crain, "but it is just the beginning. We know there are millions of concerned people out there ready to use the Internet to share how they are using their yards to benefit wildlife." Whether it's a school garden or updating your YardMap with habitat improvements, there's always something to map. What will you map next?
Barn swallow nest
Nesting Barn Swallows are the focus of a new collaborative study. Photo by Dave Wilson via Flickr Creative Commons

Citizen Scientists Needed for
New Barn Swallow Study 

Researchers at the Cornell Lab of OrnithologySyracuse University, and Globe at Night are seeking participants for a unique new study. Scientists want to know what impact all that extra night light might have on the circadian rhythms of life using Barn Swallows as their subjects. Barn Swallows have adapted to live near humans and nest almost exclusively on structures such as bridges, homes, and yes, barns. Volunteers can sign up through NestWatch.

“Specifically, we’re hoping to learn if the artificial light has an effect—good or bad—on what we call the ‘pace of life,’” says Cornell Lab of Ornithology researcher Caren Cooper. “It’s been established that creatures that live in areas where daytime is shorter during breeding, such as the tropics, have a lower metabolism and a longer life span. On the flip side, animals that breed where there is more daylight tend to have a faster metabolism and shorter life. Is the pace of life for Barn Swallows increasing if they live in areas where the days seem even longer due to artificial lights?”

If Barn Swallows nest near you, get involved in the Barn Swallow project. Sign up to learn more about how the study is being carried out through NestWatch and Globe at Night.

Collision Control: Protect Birds from Your Windows

Painted bunting
Painted buntings are susceptible to collisions with residential windows. Photo by Carlos M. Escamilla via Birdshare.

A new study from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found that approximately 988 million birds are killed annually by collisions with buildings. Fifty-six percent of these deaths were due to window collisions on homes that are 1-3 stories. The study also found that some species whose populations are in serious decline were more prone to collisions, such as Golden-winged Warblers, Painted Buntings, and Wood Thrushes.  

You can help prevent window collisions by making the windows in your home or office visible to birds. Below are just a few ways to do so.  
  • Move feeders to within 3 ft or greater than 30 ft of windows to reduce the likelihood of a window-strike becoming fatal. Click here for more details.
  • Use window decals spaced very closely together.
  • Place tape in vertical strips (no more than 10 cm or 4 in apart) on the outside of windows.
  • Plant or place vegetation away from windows.
  • Open interior blinds only halfway. 
Visit YardMap for more information on prepping your windows to be bird-safe.

Explore Feathers as Never Before at the New
All About Bird Biology Website

The Cornell Lab has just released All About Bird Biology, a media-rich website that brings the fascinating world of birds to life in a fun and interactive way. Designed as an ever-expanding resource highlighting the best bird-related science stories, the site currently explores the colorful and surprising diversity of feathers. 
You are among the first groups that we've alerted about this new site. Make sure to check out:


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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at

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