Eyewire’s Battle of the Birds

Grace Emmet, Eyewire, citizen science, Battle of the Birds, ornithology, dove, owl

Here on Eyewire, we certainly are animal lovers! You might notice that a number of our challenge weeks over the years have covered the neuroscience of the animal kingdom, plus special zoological focuses on modern reptiles and mammals — and long ago, dinosaurs. However, in HQ’s neck of the woods you don’t see too many mammals this time of year, and you definitely don’t see reptiles. It’s hibernation time, or brumation in the reptiles’ case.

What class of vertebrates can you still see plenty of in winter, though? Birds!

Maybe it’s time to look at dinosaurs again — or at least their evolutionary descendants. Birds can be beautiful, funny, cute, or ferocious, inspiring countless works of art and folktales. Their flight anatomy is truly miraculous, and it’s no wonder that birdwatching has developed as a hobby. Many birds are threatened in unique ways by human effects on the environment, but the more we learn about them, the more that we can appreciate them and help fight for conservation efforts too.

Starting on February 15th, our Battle of the Birds will take you on an ornithological journey through many mysteries of our feathered friends. Get out your binoculars and let’s go birding!

*All times are Eastern Standard Time (EST).*

Accuracy Happy Hours

First session runs from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM on Thursday 2/15
Second session runs from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM on Friday 2/16
Third session runs from 10:00 PM to midnight on Friday 2/16

Birdwatchers love to be able to identify the birds they see, but what do you do if you can’t see the bird at all, only hear its call? You need to learn the special, subtle distinctions between your local songbirds’ calls. We’re going to kick off the Battle of the Birds by studying complex bird communication and maybe showing a few examples from Eyewire HQ’s own Massachusetts landscape.

1st Place Accuracy – 10,000 points
2nd Place Accuracy – 8,000 points
3rd Place Accuracy – 6,000 points
Achieve 95% Accuracy – 5,000 points
Achieve 90% Accuracy – 3,000 points
Achieve 80% Accuracy – 2,000 points
1,000 points for anyone under 80% who still plays at least 30 cubes in either slot.
(These bonus thresholds are non-cumulative, i.e. they will not combine. If you earn 3rd place, for instance, and presumably got over 95% accuracy, you still earn a 6,000 point bonus, not 11,000.)


Begins at 12:00 AM (midnight) on Saturday 2/17
Ends at 12:00 PM (noon) on Thursday 2/22

Many birds are carnivores or insectivores, but the birds classified as raptors, or birds of prey, are probably the feathered predators that people know best. Hone your own eagle eyes as you seek out mergers on the Hunt cell, and learn about what makes raptor vision so special!

Each merger found – 1,000 points
7,500 additional points if all 12 are found
200 point bonus available on each merger to the player whose guess is closest
250 point bonus available to any player who guesses within 10 voxels of a merger

Birdbrain Trivia

Begins at 11:00 AM on Sunday 2/18
Continues until 11:00 AM on Tuesday 2/20
Finishes with Power Hour from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Tuesday 2/20

Since when did “birdbrain” have to be a bad thing? Not only are birds intelligent, but some of the most inquisitive, creative, and even tool-using animals on Earth are parrots and corvids (ravens, crows, and their smaller relatives). Besides a lesson on the blog about these fascinating birds, we’ll have trivia going in chat — about birds, brains, and other science topics!

For every question —
1st to answer – 300 points
2nd to answer – 200 points
3rd to answer – 100 points

Ostrich vs. Penguin

Begins at 11:00 AM on Monday 2/19
Ends at 11:00 AM on Wednesday 2/21

A bird that can’t fly? No problem! Flightless birds form a particularly cool part of their taxonomic class. For this competition event we’ll talk about how some birds evolved to lose their flight ability, and we’ll have a face-off between two iconic examples of the trend: ostriches and penguins!

Starting Lineup – top 3 players on each team, who earn 75% of their score in bonus points
All Other Players – earn 50% of their score in bonus points
Winning Team – 20,000 additional points
Each Team’s MVP – 5,000 additional points
(The winning team is determined by average points per player, with 2x weight given to Starting Lineup players. To qualify for any of the above bonuses or affect the team score, players must earn a minimum baseline of 2,000 points.)

Migration Marathon

Begins at 10:00 AM on Wednesday 2/21
Ends at 10:00 AM on Thursday 2/22

Many birds migrate seasonally and help us know what time of year it is, whether through their presence, their absence, or the fact they’re just passing through. Drop by the blog for information about the science of birds’ long-distance navigation, plus some profiles of important migratory species; meanwhile, Eyewire will have a marathon in honor of the incredible journeys that so many birds undertake throughout the year!

One live cell will be designated the “marathon cell,” with a 3x points multiplier!
Cube count bonuses: 3500 points per cube traced.
SC bonuses are doubled on all cells.
Every 3 SCs counts for 1 cube toward naming eligibility & per-cell completion bonus.
50 cubes = 5,000 points per completed cell, plus rights to vote on a new name for the marathon cell
200 cubes = 10,000 points per completed cell, plus rights to nominate a new name for the marathon cell

Battle of the Birds Closing Ceremony

Begins at 4:00 PM on Friday 2/23

Come celebrate the end of this competition, where admins will recognize everyone’s achievements. As always, we will include a round of promotions for Scouts, Scythes, Mystics, Moderators, and Mentors. If you’d like a promotion, you can request them here.

Artwork by Grace Emmet