Citizen science has been hugely influential in the history of ornithology, with many long-running population monitoring programs--programs like Christmas bird counts, breeding bird surveys, and hawk migration counts--all taking advantage of the enthusiastic community of birdwatchers to generate data. Here at the Field Museum, we get specimens donated to us from hundreds of different people, each one a citizen scientist, contributing to science by improving the museum's permanent research collection. If you find a dead bird and would like to donate it to the museum, check this link for instructions on what to do.
Another great way to get involved with citizen science is to enter your bird sightings at eBird.org, an online database of bird sightings run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Many Field Museum ornithologists enter their sightings here as a way to make their observational data as valuable as possible. eBird has become a very powerful tool for analyzing bird distribution in the United States and Canada and it will only get stronger over time--both for North America and across the globe--as more and more sightings are entered. As an example of what anyone can do with eBird data, see the abundance bar charts for birds year-round on the Museum Campus, or see recent sightings. Also check out our birding map and information for Downtown Chicago.
Interest in birds often starts at a young age. Field Museum staff is involved with the Illinois Young Birders, a group that offers monthly field trips around the state for kids age 8-18 who are particularly interested in birds.