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What does specialist do when they need scientifically sound data from all over the world? They tap into the enthusiasm and curiosity of children. At least that is what scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology does to answer important questions about one of the common and mysterious birds, the pigeon. Project Pigeon Watch, an international research project enlisted the participation of kids all over the world. Cornell is eager to find out why pigeons ("officially known as Rock Doves) occur in so many different colors. After many generations scientists expected pigeons to revert back to one or two color forms or shapes.

Pigeon Watch participants find flocks of pigeons that allow close observation. Using an easy to follow protocol participants count the pigeons by color, record the courting color of courting pigeons as often as they wish. Because pigeons are so common in cities Cornell drew up a protocol that interested non-scientists to participate in a real hands on scientific project. Many of the participants are inner city kids and they learn to view their local environment in a whole new way. Also they take pride in their ability to contribute to a research project. Kids enjoy learning different color forms or shapes that have unusual names like, "Checkers," "Blue Bar" and "Spreads." The kids especially enjoy playing detective to determine who's trying to attract who within the flock. For some inner city kids and parents it is their first connection to the natural world around us.

The parents take pride in the project also and this is why science directed the project toward a parent/ child relationship. If you, your class or community group would like to get involved in Pigeon Watch call the Cornell Lab at 800- 843- 2473.