Urban Nestwatch


Urban Nestwatch brings the proven educational experience of Neighborhood Nestwatch directly into urban schools and parks in the Washington, D.C. region where Smithsonian scientists educate underserved communities about birds and the process of science.

Providing this opportunity is critically important in underserved urban communities where access to direct encounters with local wildlife is extremely limited. Furthermore, given the trend toward disproportionately higher population growth in urban centers, opportunities for urban dwellers become even more significant.

Urban Nestwatch increases participants' science literacy, raises their awareness as environmental stewards, and opens their minds to the possibility of a career in a science or technology field.


Like Neighborhood Nestwatch, Urban Nestwatch has two main goals:


Once each year Smithsonian scientists turn a participating schoolyard or local park into an outdoor classroom where participants learn about birds and their habitats by observing live bird banding demonstrations and participating in fun outreach games and activities. All activities are aligned with the latest national and state curriculum standards.

Citizen Science

Each location also becomes an outdoor laboratory where birds are captured, measured, and color-banded. In so doing the location becomes a study site where participants are taught how to identify and monitor birds as well as send observations back to the Migratory Bird Center.


Urban Nestwatch offers a mix of highly interactive activities that center around a bird banding demonstration. Within a 2-4 hour period, groups rotate among stations representing different concepts about birds, their role in natural systems, and humans' responsibility as stewards of the environment.

For example, the live bird banding demonstration reveals science in action while selected participatory activities such as "Migration Vacation" or "What Makes a Bird a Bird?" focus on particular life history traits of birds. The program has developed a wide-ranging list of activities for varying age groups.

children participating in a group activity
children participating in a group activity


children participating in a group activity
children participating in a group activity

As participants are learning, scientists collect real data used to answer critical questions about bird populations in urban areas. Continued student participation year after year through observations and reports brings greater credibility to scientific research efforts that access the impact of human development on birds and other wildlife.

This unique program of engaging students in their own communities with science and nature can stimulate a life-long interest in environmental conservation, as well as develop skills and open doors for young people to consider a future career in the sciences.

Urban Nestwatch is adaptable and events customized as desired. Special requests regarding program length, activities conducted, and content presented can be accommodated. For more information contact Urban Nestwatch.