The Cornell Lab Bird Academy Discussion Groups Joy of Birdwatching Activities: Noticing Behaviors

    • Bird Academy
      Bird Academy
      Share your experience participating in this lesson's activities. Comment on as many or as few activities as you'd like.
      You must be enrolled in the course to reply to this topic.
    • Nancy
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      I went outside and recorded on the Merlin app the bird songs around our home.  In six and one-half minutes these were the birds that Merlin identified:  osprey, American robin, Baltimore oriole, red-winged blackbird, cedar waxwing, brown-headed cowbird, common grackle, house sparrow, Canada goose, and Lincoln sparrow.  All but the last two birds were recorded in the first 45 seconds.  Of these, the American robin, the grackle, and the Canada goose were the only ones I could identify on my own.  I am trying to use this app to learn to identify these birds by their songs and also to use my binoculars to find the birds around my neighborhood and at a nearby nature center.  I have much to learn, but I am enjoying this. I am excited to learn that there are many birds in my neighborhood that I don't see at our bird feeders.
    • Krystal
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      Activity 1:
      • When the crows visit the feeder, I can see most distinctly how similar they are to blue jays. They too prefer the peanuts in the shell - though they try to collect as many as they can in one go. The other common trait is that they usually start at the top of the feeder and then flip down to the platform feeder, as if they were a gymnast.
      • This morning I got to witness a cardinal pair courting ritual! They both landed on the feeder and looked at it a bit, then the female flew over to the bougainvillea, followed shortly by the male. They sat side by side on one of the branches while the male put a peanut from the feeder into her beak.
      Activity 2: 
      • Most of the songbirds (northern cardinals, titmice, Carolina chickadees, warblers) I've observed arrive at the feeder, check out the options available, seize the piece they want, and fly off to enjoy it elsewhere (I'm assuming). The titmouse always flies off with the seed or nut into the trees. Occasionally the other songbirds will stay for a short while to eat for a bit.
      • The blue jays and American crows will usually alight on the top "branch" of the feeder to survey what is on offer, then will swing themselves down to on of the lower levels. The blue jays will often meticulously weigh each peanut (in the shell) before deciding on the one they want (heaviest?). The crows on the other hand try to collect as many peanuts as they can fit into their beaks at once.
      • The red-bellied woodpecker and the downy woodpecker both will stay for some time at the suet feeder, pecking away at the food on offer.
      • The doves (primarily mourning doves) tend to hand out in large groups for long periods of time, sitting on the various platforms and "branches", sometimes eating, sometimes just sitting there.
      Activity 3: The blue jays calls and the red bellied woodpecker are easiest for me to identify from inside since they tend to be on the louder side. It amazes me just how many bird sounds I hear when I sit outside, particularly in the early morning.
    • Jena
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 3 I listened outside for 5 minutes using my favorite app ever!!! Merlin is the best. I distinctly heard 4 different species- spotted Towee, yellow rumped warbler, house finch, European starling and Merlin also identified a Bewick’s wren
    • Rebecca
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I have a feeder in my yard that I keep an eye on.  The Eurasian collared doves hate having anyone else nearby and fly away noisily, but the nuthatch doesn't care if I'm going in and out of the house.  The Nutall's woodpecker eats a few bites through the bottom of the feeder before flying away, the dark eyed junco prefers the ground, picking up anything the others has knocked down.  The scrub jay will come to see, but it really prefers the ground or the oak tree, not the feeder, and so do the robins.  Most of the birds only approach the feeder one at a time, if another bird, even of the same species, flies up, off the first one goes.  Does that mean the space is too small to share? The Oak titmouse will share the feeder with the warblers, I know there's a ruby crowned kinglet around who doesn't show up to the feeder at all. We have a hummingbird feeder, too, so I get to see several of them year-round, they perch on a nearby branch and sing.  Today there was a hummingbird fight that was loud enough to get me out of the house, two very territorial males, I think one was migrating through, because this was not typical chase-away behavior.
    • I’ve noticed birds cleaning their beaks on the branches.  Also the American Goldfinch seem to like the black oil sunflower seeds and will stay on the feeder to eat them.  When they venture over to the mixed seed feeder they fly off if a sparrow comes.  The sparrows stay at the feeder for quite a while.  I have learned that a certain call I have wondered about is from a Bluejay, and I often hear Chickadees.
    • Kristian
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 1: It is a very busy morning at my feeder cam today. We had some snow this morning and it seems to have let up. The birds are very adamant about feeding today since they possibly know about the low temperatures coming this week. I observed a lot of dominant hierarchy as birds would leave when a bigger bird would arrive. The black capped chickadees would land and quickly fly off when the Nuthatch or woodpecker would follow to return after they depart. I noticed that the birds are coming in one at a time, taking food and leaving. The woodpeckers are a lot more observant and curious. Activity 2: The Woodpeckers take the most time eating, and the female downy woodpecker stays the longest up to 45 seconds or longer always looking to the left and right before or while she takes food. The Red Bellied woodpecker is also curious but takes Sunflower seeds and leaves. The Black Capped Chickadee take the black oiled sunflower seeds the most, the nuthatch takes the peanuts, and the Downy Woodpecker takes nuts. Activity 3: I couldn't hear many species other than the few feeding at the feeder cam. The most vocal were the Chicadees with a short chirp chirp 4 times when landing and taking off.
    • Lori
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      At the hop through feeder, we get Dark-eyed Juncos, House Finches, three types of jays, Spotted Towhee, and two types of chickadees with an occasional visit from Wild Turkeys.  The Stellar’s Jay and juncos prefer the ground, but will go to the feeder.  All clear out when the turkeys come. The chickadees flit in, grab one seed then go off to either hide it or occasionally go to a branch to use as they pry the seed open. The chickadees prefer to come when it isn’t crowded. The Spotted Towhee also prefers the ground (hopping forward and backward under the scub oak or juniper bushes) but usually hangs out in the hop through because there isn’t ready ground cover to hop under. Other birds give the towhee the whole feeder when it arrives. The House Finches gather as a group and linger. They spend time finding the sunflower seed they prefer then hold it in their mouth until it cracks open. There are a couple females that chase off other species her size from the feeder, like the juncos.  But, there is a slate Dark-eyed Junco that holds its own. The house finches also spend time on the ground with the juncos.  What has surprised me is that a few juncos have been working on the suet. It isn’t a graceful process with fluttering of wings to keep balance. They give way to the Downy Woodpecker, who gives way to the Scrub Jay, who gives way to the Northern Flicker. The Red-Breasted Nuthatch comes to the suet when no one else is around.  Takes a couple pecks then drops down to the water bath and takes a drink before going back to the suet.  The highest activity seems to happen late morning around 10:30.
    • Whitney
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      My ears definitely work better than my eyes!  From my bedroom window I can easily identify house finches, white-crowned sparrows, northern flickers, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, mourning doves, Eurasian collared doves, western meadowlarks and red-tailed hawks. I am not as good as identifying birds “in the field”.  I think it just experience.  I have spent a lot of time listening to the birds at my house.
    • Frederick
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Various Wild Birds Feeding     (Activity 2)       These are various bird species at our feeders last winter. Specifically drawn to dried soldier fly larvae.
    • Crystal
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: I watched the Ontario FeederWatch cam and saw a Blue Jay foraging on the platform feeder. It was hopping around and pecking through the seeds on the tray. It also kept looking around checking his surroundings. It did not make any calls when I was watching and did not appear to take any food to cache for later. Activity 2: I tuned into the Cornell Lab Feeder Camera and there was a lot of activity. A Downy and Hairy Woodpecker were both on the suet feeder pecking at it at the same time. Two America Goldfinches were on the seed tube feeder eating at the ports. A Black-capped chickadee landed on the platform feeder grabbed one seed and left. Two tufted titmouse also landed on the platform feeder and quickly took seeds and left. Also some large birds (ducks or geese) too far away to identify were swimming in the background and appeared to be looking for food in the water. A Red-bellied woodpecker also stopped by the suet feeder to grab a small bite and then fly away. Activity 3: I watched and listened to the Ontario FeederWatch Cam and the first birds I saw and heard were seven Evening Grosbeaks. I did not know their call since there are not found where I live.   At home I can identify most of the regular birds in my yard by ear. I love the sounds of the Mourning Dove, Black Phoebe and the California Scrub-Jay.
    • Theresa
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 3: While listening outside of my window I heard two different bird species. I believe I heard a European starling and I know that I also heard a red-breasted nuthatch because I was able to see the bird making its call. This was a great exercise and I need to practice identifying birds by their calls.
    • Penelope
      Participant
      Chirps: 38
      Activity 3:  I often hear a variety of birdsongs in the dawn chorus, the optimal time for discovering under-the-radar species that rarely appear in the daytime. Here are some of the most often prominent among them:
      • Blue Jay
      • American Crow
      • Cedar Waxwing
      • European Starling
      • Blackburnian Warbler
      • Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
      • Black-throated Green Warbler
      • American Goldfinch
      • Goldyfinchfe (3)
    • Gregory
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: I have often observed mallards dabbling for food close to shore or snapping it up off of the ground. Small fights frequently break out which includes some pulling of feathers, rapid running, and quacking at each other; this is usually immediately followed by the participants resetting their plumage, either by just fluffing up and settling back down or by bathing. After this lesson, some of the grooming and preening behaviors I have seen I now know to involve spreading oil from the gland by their tail over the rest of their coat, which requires them to rub it with their heads. Activity 2: Carolina chickadees typically grab just one seed at a time before flying to a nearby perch to eat it, while house finches and northern cardinals remain at the feeder to eat continuously. The cardinals usually scare away the finches, but if there are enough finches they sometimes will charge back at the cardinal and reclaim their spots, although they frequently compete with each other. Chipping sparrows visit not infrequently. Carolina wrens, eastern bluebirds, and tufted titmice are much more furtive around the feeder. Brown thrashers frequently forage through the leaf litter underneath for the seeds that have been dislodged by the finches and cardinals. In the late winter and early spring, it is common for a northern mockingbird to fly to the feeder and scare away any other birds feeding there, but they usually do not get anything from the feeder themselves; it seems like a purely territorial activity. Activity 3: Most of the time, I hear northern cardinals and blue jays making their calls, sometimes joined by more distant American crows, or by Canada geese flying overhead. In the mornings, Carolina wrens often sing; northern mockingbirds are heard even more frequently.
    • chris
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 3 - I like to wake up around sunrise (when its not at 5 am or something) and listen to the birds in my area,  I can ID the common ones however I learn more every day and thats part of what I am loving about Birding.  The birds I was able to ID by sound in my backyard are American Robin, Stellars Jay, Blackcapped Chickadee, and a Spotted Towhee.  Using the Merlin app I was able to spot a Cedar Waxwing, Chestnut-backed Chickadee and a brown creeper.  The local birds often come and go with the seasons however I am lucky enough to live a bit into the bush and get to listen to their songs in the morning whenever I am not feeling like a hermit.
    • chris
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 2 - I watched the  Cornell Lab Feeder Cam for a while and paid attention to the bird species that showed up.  The Grackles that where there got their pick of the litter in terms of seeds, scaring off blue jays that got too close and eating where and when they want until they fly off to do their own thing.  Blue jays would show up sometimes alone and sometimes in groups and eat for a minute or 2 then fly off on their own.  Red winged black birds tended to find their own corner to pick seeds from and fly off the quickest of the birds I can Identify.  There where a sparrow or 2 as well however I am not as good at my sparrow ID skills.
    • chris
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 1 - I watched a Crow spread its wings and show its back to the sun on the roof of my neighbors house,  This behaviour initially worried me as I assumed the crow was in distress however after a few minutes of open mouthed breathing and spreading its wings it got up and flew off like nothing happened.  It did not take long to figure out the crow was sunbathing, something they do for thermoregulation and for self care on their feathers.
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      As a novice bird watcher, I am still learning to identify birds by song so I used the Merlin Bird ID app to help me. I sat in my backyard in the afternoon on August 10, 2023 and heard the following birds:
      • Northern Cardinal
      • Chimney Swift
      • Blue Jay
      • Black-Capped Chickadee
      • American Goldfinch
      • Brown-Headed Cowbird
      • Tufted Titmouse
      • House Sparrow
      • Downy Woodpecker
      • Common Grackle
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: I watched the Cornell bird cam in New Zealand that focused on Northern Royal Albatrosses. The cam was shooting live footage of a nest. In the nest was a single albatross that appeared to be a juvenile. It had a lot of downy feathers down its back giving me a clue that it was a youngster waiting for its adult feathers to come in. Perhaps this albatross was an adult that was molting, though. This bird appeared to be resting and, in fact, fell asleep after about five minutes of looking all around him, presumably for predators. It also preened itself during that time. At one point, it appeared to remove ectoparasites or insect nuisances from its back an eat them.   Activity 2: I watched the Cornell feeder watch cam and at first saw 4 doves eating seeds off the ground. They were constantly bobbing their heads up and down eating lots of seeds. There were also 4 grackles either eating food off the ground or straight out of a bird feeding. The banded together and forced a cardinal away from the feeders. Two woodpeckers pecked at the vertical bird feeder made of suet and the log bird feeder.
    • Camille
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 3: As I sit in my backyard, I hear a Northern Cardinal, Wood Thrush, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, and Blue Jay.
    • Ruth
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      Activity 1  -  I watched the Royal Albatross on the Bird Cam.  I chose this bird because it is suppose to be one of the largest birds and not available to view in the United States.  It seems the threat in the environment on the cam is wind.  Several behaviors, I noticed were the nesting and some courtship behaviors.  Once the baby was ready to hatch, I saw staff replace the egg with a fake egg and realized how endangered the bird maybe.  The female during nesting actually pulled up roots to add to the nest or was it food for later?!  During the brooding period the female seemed to call the male to take his turn and the male did something strange, stopping a call, and clipping the female's beak with his beak to quiet her.  I did see the dance of four or five RA move feet as the baby watched which seemed like imprinting walking.  The young baby imitated the movement a few times by standing in the nest but then sitting back down in the nest. Activity 2  -  The red-headed woodpecker was interesting because he/she did not leave the suet during the cam view (4 or 5 minutes) of the bird feeder.  Many birds were only feeding for 30 seconds. Activity 3-This morning I could hear about ten distinct sounds but unable to name each bird.
    • Heath
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 3: This morning I heard the songs of an American Robin and a close but hidden Carolina Wren. I usually hear the songs of the wrens and the wood thrushes. However, seeing them in the woods is a different story.
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 27
      Activity 3:  I have been watching and listening for birds on my daily walks/   I have been studying the sounds of birds in my area and was so happy today to realize I correctly identified the call of the Red Winged Blackbird. As I was walking along, I heard a call I had studied this week and said to myself, It’s a Red Winged Blackbird. So, I stood still and waited and then he was kind enough to flyby so I could see him. It made me happy that I remembered which sound was his.
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 27
      Activity 2:  I have several different feeders to accommodate the “regulars” that stop by my yard.   I notice that the Mourning Doves often feed from the seeds on the ground under the feeder in the yard. The Downy Woodpecker hangs out by the suet feeder. He sits there for a good amount of time before flying off.  The Cardinals eat seeds patiently from the feeder on my porch and then if chased away they come back to clean up the seeds that spilled onto the cement floor of the porch.  They hop along and get as much as they can from the ground as if not wanting it to go to waste.  Blue Jays and Grackles are a bit aggressive to watch as they swoop in, grab and go.  They often scare other birds away.  Finches like the small holed bag I fill with Nyjer seed. They hang on the bag and eat from there since the bigger birds can’t get their beaks into the little holes.  Robins dig around on the ground for worms and Hummingbirds sip nectar with their long beaks. They are also very possessive of the feeders and don’t share very well.
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 27
      Activity 1:  I observed the tree swallow for about 20 minutes.  He was staking his claim on one of the bird boxes in my yard. He was showing territorial behavior to other swallows as well as to some sparrows who stopped by to check out the box.  He would sit atop my flagpole and watch the box.  If other birds came by he would swoop down and ask them to leave.  I thought I noticed it swooping and catching insects and then I read the guide and found out that is one of their behaviors.