Research News: ‘Gender Gap’ at our feeders
Although males can easily be distinguished from females in many species, in Project FeederWatch we only report the largest total flock size for each species seen at one time. But what could we learn if we counted males and females separately? Do males and females visit our feeders with the same frequency? Do males generally winter farther south than females, or vice versa?
Dr. Erica Dunn, the founder of Project FeederWatch, returned to her FeederWatching roots last winter and reached out to participants across North America to help answer questions about a possible “gender gap” at feeders. During the 2009-2010 season, 520 FeederWatch participants submitted additional information about which sexes of each species were being seen at their feeders, contributing to the “gender gap” survey.
Surprisingly, males were reported more frequently than females in all of the 14 species analyzed. Latitudinal trends in the distribution of the sexes were detected in seven species, but the results were mixed. More males were found in the north in some species, whereas males were more common in the south for other species.
As with many inquiries into nature, the “gender gap” study raised more questions than it answered. That’s one reason why science is so intriguing, and why we continue to study our feeder birds. Read the full project summary to learn more from this novel study.