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

    • Jill
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      IMG_0297Activity 1: We watched the Ring-billed Gulls in action alongside our area's large lake. The Merlin app really helps to differentiate on the spot but the All About Birds website review certainly makes one a local expert. The flying, wading, behaviors we've noted for years take on new meaning with this birding course. We live in a breeding area for these gulls so they are everywhere. Unfortunately they draw tourists who feed them anything and everything which always brings on a flock. / Activity 2: We seem to watch the squirrels try every antic they know to acquire seeds from our "squirrel proof" bird feeder but watching birds for 15 minutes will be our challenge going forward. We'll have to add more feeders to attract an array of birds that stay awhile. / Activity 3: Recognizing bird songs will also take more practice ---made more fun with the games at the Cornell Ornithology website. The dawn chorus is a little early for us!
    • Danya
      Participant
      Chirps: 20
      Activity 1:  We have noticed a lot of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers on our walks lately.  They are so difficult to photograph because they constantly moving about eating insects.  Activity 2:  We have a lot of different birds that come to our bird feeders and each species does seem to have its own style.  The Downy Woodpecker always goes to the suet and is not shy about sticking around; the Red-bellied Woodpecker and Blue Jays take a peanut and leave to eat it on our maple tree; the European Starlings, our least favorite birds, come in a flock, crowd out the other birds, and make a mess by spilling the bird seed all over the patio.  Activity 3:  We are beginning to notice a few more bird songs than before.  We can identify the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Gray Catbirds immediately.  We were treated to a wonderful song by a Wood Thrush recently. 22-IMG_4938 04-IMG_5134 01-IMG_5124
    • Annie
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Activity 2: The Northern Cardinals at my feeders will park themselves at my feeders and eat seeds there typically. They'll stay for long periods at a time if not disturbed. I also spotted some courtship behavior the other day in which the male cardinal was feeding a female. The Carolina Chickadees are more likely to hop on the feeder for a moment, grab a seed, and fly off again and then repeat. Same thing with my Tufted Titmice - they'll take a seed and eat it elsewhere. The doves are usually on the ground by the feeder and will graze there, though I did see one on my feeder today! Like the cardinals, the doves tend to stick around for a while as long as they aren't bothered. There is a red-bellied woodpecker who also enjoys our bird feeder. It will stop and eat seeds for about half a minute before flying off again into the trees. I saw a brown thrasher trying somewhat successfully to get some suet from our woodpecker suet feeder. It balanced awkwardly but managed to get a little before giving up and going elsewhere. Our crows do the same thing. They peck a little at the suet feeder, but as it's not built with them in mind, they don't spend too much time on it.
    • Link
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 1: I was watching a House Finch sitting on top of a pole. He was mostly looking around. He fluffed up once and did a little bill-wiping, but not much other than that. I'm guessing that he was mostly just keeping an eye out for predators and his kind. Activity 2:I heard the songs of the American Robin, European Starling, House Finch, and Eurasian Collared Dove. I'm learning that birding is just as much about sound as it is about sight.
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      1. Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have been landing in a tree over our pool late in the morning and staying much of the day. They are eating the seeds off the tree by biting  off the tips of branches, holding them with their feet and picking off the seeds. The branches land in our pool. There are many birds in the valley behind our home and periodically a cockatoo will give off a scare call and the cockatoos in the tree will join others forming a large squawking flock that circles the valley with other species joking them for part of the action. Eventually they will settle again. 2. The Cockatoos in our tree (eucalyptus) snap the tips off branches, pick off seeds with their beak and crack a seed open. they discard the outer part of the seed. 3. Noisy minors, Lorikeets, King Parrots, Magpies, Currawong.
    • Betsy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      1. Watching the barn owl in the Webcam, I noticed it standing on one leg. Today's lesson informed me that the Barn Owl was stretching. I now recall, she had her wing extended as well. She does a lot of preening of her feathers and adjusting herself. 2. The Oak Titmouse will sit on one of my feeders and eat once seed after another until something spurs it to move away. My robins do not go up on the feeder but prefer to graze the ground beneath it and forage for dropped seeds and likely ground insects. 3. I really want to learn to identify more Bird Song. For now, I know the Blue Jay, the Mourning Dove, the American Robin and of course, the Crow. And I know the woodpecker's pecking sound and easily observe them at the tops of the palm trees. I also love to hear the Barn Owls after dark and occasionally a screech owl.
    • David
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I remember an activity of a finch that had created a nest in a hanging flower pot on our front porch.  On an extremely hot day the sun was pouring down on the nest with the young inside.  In order to protect them from the sun, the female (or male?) perched on the edge of the nest and fanned its wings out to shade the young.  It recognized the danger of the hot sun that would overheat the young in the nest.  The finch continued this for some time.
      • Cathy
        Participant
        Chirps: 45
        David, Wow, that's very interesting and must have been neat to see the parent shading it's young. Cathy
    • Alexis
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      In the Washington DC suburbs. #3: Gray catbird, northern cardinal, house sparrow, American crow were birds I could identify by their songs/calls. The way I usually identify a mockingbird is by hearing a whole series of bird calls, one right after the other. I've heard and seen more blue jays this year than in other years. I was surprised to realize that I'd forgotten what their calls sound like, but I've got it now. #1: American Robins really do go bob-bob-bobbin' along the ground looking for their meals. I see and hear lots of house sparrows and song sparrows, although the individuals don't tend to hold still long enough for much watching.
    • Jane
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 1 DSCF0613 Watching this beautiful lady have her breakfast was exciting!! I never realized  Pileated Woodpeckers have such a long, narrow tongue. She spent a few minutes enjoying the suet feeder then flew to a nearby tree where she wiped her beak several time to clean off remnants of food.
      • Cathy
        Participant
        Chirps: 45
        What a great picture, Jane.  Thanks for sharing. Cathy
    • Sandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 3: In central British Columbia we have Violet-green Sparrows breeding! Several of them flew on my deck yesterday morning. They glided over the railing of up to the rafters, then flew away. They have a very quick chirpy sound. House sparrows are numerous in a large tree close by, as are American Goldfinches. European Starlings have a funny song. Several Mallards and Canada Geese flying over towards the numerous ponds and marshes close by. I don't like the sound crows make, but they are interesting and smart. There was one sound I could not make out. Going through sounds on Merlin I believe it is the Yellow-rumped Warbler. I am still working on locating through sound; a challenging task, considering the abundance of species here in the spring. SutherlandMay2020 (23)
      • Aaron
        Participant
        Chirps: 16
        Didn't you mean Violet-green Swallow. They are so pretty nice picture.
    • Sandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 2: I watched the Ontario cam for a while, but only Sparrows. Surprising to me they were eating from the feeders facing down, like the Nuthatch. Then were feeding from the tray. The 5 of them were quite civilized. On the Cornell cam were several blackbirds eating from the feeders and the tray, with a lot of exuberance and fighting. As I expected, the woodpecker was hanging on the side of the feeders, pecking slowly. The Mourning Dove was pecking slowly on the tray. I wonder how humans would eat if social pressure to conform was not there? lol
    • Sandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 1: at one of my favorite marshes, there were few birds, but a lot of activity. A Red-winged Blackbird and crow squawking and flying at one another. The crow was low in the tree, which i do not normally see, and was intent on annoying the Blackbird. Male Mallards chasing one another. Fighting over the female close by I think. The Osprey were busy the past few weeks nest building, but I only saw the female today sitting low in the nest. Keeping the eggs warm. I found an empty Robins egg on the ground, but did not see any Robins. Red-winged blackbirds in several different trees were sending out warning signals when I got close. I am used to their annoyed calls, but these calls were more protective sounding. Many House Sparrows hopping from one bush to another, angry at each other. I have seen them be territorial before; not like the Red-winged Blackbird is though.
    • Julian
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      2: I have enjoyed watching White-Crowned Sparrows, Harris's Sparrows, and a Mourning Dove graze on scattered seeds as the day cools down. When I go outside, nobody comes down to the yard. If the dove doesn't come down to look for snacks, I probably won't see the sparrows either. The sparrows wait in the bushes and then some will go to the seeds to forage. They like it best when it's in the shady evening. If the dove flutters in, the sparrows are pretty quick to join. There are always hidden sparrows looking out for the foragers, but I think seeing the dove foraging makes them feel more comfortable. After all, it's very easy to hear when a dove gets spooked and flies away. The dove is much less timid than the sparrows and eats its fill before leaving. Sometimes a single male Common Grackle will come to eat some leftover corn, but nobody likes being around him. The robins always throw a fit when the grackles are too close. The grackle doesn't care if people are in the yard or not. He is a hardened corn-snatcher, and he chews his food loudly.
    • Deborah
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I watched and heard some birds at The Cornell Lab Feeder Cam.  I recognized the call of the red-wing blackbird and downy woodpecker.  They both came to eat.  The red-wing black bird ate several seeds at a time whereas the cardinal ate one seed at a time from the tray.  The black capped chickadee ate one seed at a time from the tube feeder.  The downy woodpecker took a quite a bit of time to eat from the center feeder and ate a lot at once.  It was fun to see all the activity!
    • Manyu
      Participant
      Chirps: 42
      Activity 2 - Cornell Lab Feeder Cam 5th May 2020 7:35 AM to 7:45 AM 1. A male and female Northern Cardinal were there. 2. I think it was a forest which came and disturbed the Cardinals. 3. There were couple of yellow sparrow sized song birds. Black crown, white stripes on black wings. Stayed for very short periods. warbler ? 4. Again Raven came and they went away. 5. Red winged black birds were there. I saw one showing it's red wings to other with an aggressive call. 6. Yellow-Crowned wood pecker was attracted towards only one feeder which looks like tree's trunk. It and dove were the only birds not afraid of Raven. 7. A squirrel also was seen enjoying the feed.
    • Manyu
      Participant
      Chirps: 42
      Activity 3 : Was able to listen to 14 songs/calls. I was able to recognize the following : - 1. House Sparrow 2. Common Myna 3. House Crow 4. Indian Peafowl 5. Brown Rock Chat 6. Rose Ringed Parakeet 7. Eurasian collared Dove. 8. Black kite 9.Red Vented Bulbul 10. Red wattled lapwing 11. Little Swift
    • Manyu
      Participant
      Chirps: 42
      Activity 1- Red vented BulBul Saw it scratching it's head , cleaning the bill, fluffing up the feathers, eating raw fruits from trees and trying to catch an insect. It was about to rain and couple of Bulbuls went for higher trees. They became more active when it rained and moved from tree to other. I saw it cleaning the wet wings. Also noticed the bigger birds straightaway went for some place which can save them from rain like Myna, Pigeon and crows. Saw the bird cam too and if I am correct ravens and squirrels were enjoying the feed.  Ravens were fighting among themselves.
    • Jason
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: I picked a European Starling to watch, mostly because most of the other birds I see outside don't stick around for long enough to watch! The bird was on a grassy section of a park feeding with several other starlings. It pecked at the grassy lawn, and walked around as it did so. The other starlings in the group did the same thing. The bird constantly looked up, likely to check for predators, and then back down to continue foraging for food. It never strayed more than a meter or two from the other birds in its group. At one point, one bird in the group suddenly flew away into a nearby tree, and the rest of the group departed too, though they didn't all congregate in the same tree. While the birds were grazing, they rarely made calls and didn't sing, but when they departed in flight they did make calls, and then one in the tree one of them started singing. Activity 2: I watched the Sapsucker Woods feeder cam for about 10 minutes. I saw an American Robin land on the flat surface (not the hanging feeders), look around (perhaps for predators?) for about 10 seconds, and then fly away without having taken any seeds. Then, a White-Breasted Nuthatch landed on a perch of one of the hanging feeders. The bird spent most of its time glancing around in different directions, jumping to adjust its position on the perch so it could see in different directions. Finally, the bird dug its head inside the feeder and eventually grabbed a seed and flew away. A minute later, a Nuthatch arrived back at the same feeder -- likely the same bird. It took another individual seed and flew away again. This happened a few more times. I also saw a Northern Cardinal land on the flat surface and peck at individual seeds, also looking around constantly for vigilance. After a minute of this, the Cardinal hopped up onto a perch of one of the hanging feeders and grabbed individual seeds from inside this feeder. Comparing the Nuthatch and the Cardinal, the larger bird (Cardinal) seemed more interested in the flat landing area, whereas the smaller bird only landed on the perch. This might also have to do with the Nuthatch's specific preference for surfaces like a tree truck -- maybe another small bird, like a sparrow, would also be comfortable on the flat surface. Again comparing the two, the Cardinal spent longer at the feeder than the Nuthatch did -- the latter had a pattern of landing, grabbing a seed, departing with it, then returning to start the cycle over again. Activity 3: I often spend a bit of time on my balcony observing birds. I've been amazed at how much of my experience is now auditory as opposed to just visual. Immediately, when I go outside, I hear a single House Sparrow chirping away loudly from inside a cedar bush. Then, as I grow accustomed to this sound, my ears open up to other bird sounds. I hear a black-capped chickadee's song in the distance, the song of a Northern Cardinal, the periodic calls of Ring-Billed Gulls as they pass overhead, the caws of American crows, the rhythmic beating of duck wings as a mallard shoots by, the songs and calls of Red-Winged Blackbirds in the distance, and the honking of several Canada Geese as they fly overhead. The list goes on!
    • cindy
      Participant
      Chirps: 16
      Activity 2.  Eastern Bluebird likes to eat meal worms. The mother and father are feeding the juveniles with open mouths and scream demanding food.   The red-bellied woodpecker likes the suet feeder with the tail prop.  Occasionally it will eat from other feeders but looks uncomfortable as it tries to contort itself to access the seeds. The cardinals Prefer to eat off the ground but will eat from platform feeder.
    • Minor
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      As a rank amateur, I have trouble identifying the birds because before I know it they are gone.  It has been helpful watching the feeder cams and taking a screen shot when I see a bird I want to identify.  This gives me a chance to identify it using Merlin.
    • Paula
      Participant
      Chirps: 19
      I looked at the Barred Owl cam. There are 3 (it took me a while to figure out how many) little owls. They are downy.  At the start they seemed to all be just dozing. Then the back one started changing position as if snuggling up to one of the others, or maybe trying to wake them up. It opened its eyes and looked around an up, perhaps looking for the return of its mother.  Then the second owl started pecking near the awake owls beak.  At first I thought it was grooming the other owl, but then perhaps it thought maybe it had food for it. Finally the third owl which had been so curled up I thought it might be part of one of the other two stirred and I saw their were three. Finally the second owl started preening.   Nice to watch them close up.   At the Ithaca feeder the mourning dove was standing on the edge of the platform with it's head almost totally in the bottom hole of the feeder although it seemed to take out only one seed at a time it took breaks between eating but ate right at the hole. A goldfinch then dropped in on a higher rung and it would peck in grab a seed pull back seeming to break the husk and drip it while eating the inside. Finally a grackle came by, the others flew off and it stood on the corner of the platform pulling seeds out.  When it left a Blue Jay flew up and ate seeds from the platform picking them up and sort of tossing them back while lifting it's head, while another mourning dove pecked at the seeds eating with it's head down close to the seeds.   Out my window I can hear cardinals, blue jays, downy woodpeckers, song sparrows and maybe a mocking bird.  There are other sounds I can't identify (but hope to with time).
    • Donna
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 1: I watched a blue jay as he flitted back and forth between the seed feeder, peanut feeder, the ground and a nearby tree. He carried a whole peanut away in his beak and then proceeded to hold it against a branch pecking at it. I also noticed him swiping his beak against the tree branch. Activity 2: The different feeding techniques I noticed were the downy and hairy woodpeckers pecking away at the peanut feeder, a house finch at a seed feeder picking at the seeds, a pair of rose breasted grosbeaks eating black oil sunflower seeds on the feeder and spitting out the hulls, and mourning doves and red wing black birds foraging together eating the seeds on the ground. Activity 3: I heard at least 12 different species based on songs/calls. I find this to be the most difficult aspect of bird identification - associating the call with the bird out in the real world! The ones that I heard today that I can reliably identify are the blue jay, cardinal, red wing blackbird, American crow, mourning dove, gray catbird and pileated woodpecker (who was off in the distance).
    • Jay
      Participant
      Chirps: 19
      Activity 1: It was quite rainy today but, nevertheless, the birds were out exhibiting a range of the behaviors described in the lesson. As Kevin said: “To survive, a bird needs to eat and not get eaten.” These are a few of the behaviors I observed: Foraging for food — catching insects: this Downy Woodpecker flew from tree trunk to tree trunk and, starting at the bottom and working her way up, proceeded to hunt for and eat (I’m assuming) insects. IMG_5955 Self care — beak cleaning: although I missed the quintessential act, you’ll have to take my word for it that a Northern Cardinal was cleaning his beak on a branch! Parental behavior — feeding young: a House Sparrow went between the feeder and the feeder arm, bringing food to her cheeping fledgling (you can just make out the baby’s open and waiting mouth in this shot). I guess this pesky invasive has already successfully hatched a new brood… IMG_5960 As I said, it was quite rainy, and I often wonder… what do birds do when it rains really hard? Perhaps this Mourning Dove has the answer: he (or she) sat very still in a tree with his/her head tilted upward, as if exposing a smaller profile to the sky(?). IMG_5958
    • Rosemary
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      At the bird feeder today the Blue Jay would take a seed and fly away and eat it them come back and get another seed and repeat.  The Mourning Doves were foraging on the ground and the sparrows just hung on the metal change and ate until something startle them and then they all flew away.
    • Katie
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      Activity #1 I glanced out the window today and saw a different looking bird sitting in a tree next to my feeders. I grabbed my binoculars to take a closer look. I'm so glad I did because it was a quite uncommon White-Crowned Sparrow. I watched him sit there brave as can be and then he began to pick at the tree a bit and move farther down it. Then he flew just a few feet and began foraging on the ground under my sunflower seed feeders. So excited to see an uncommon bird in a city setting. Activity #2 I regularly have House Finches at my safflower feeder and they grab the seed and either feed right at the feeder or sit nearby and eat it and then go in for some more. Unlike the few chickadee and titmouse that show up where they grab a seed and then hide in the nearby tree and bang at the seed between their feet to get parts of it open. Then they will go back and get another seed. The Gold Finches at the thistle feeder sit there for a long time eating away but they have been getting more territorial with each other. Activity #3 Around my house today, I heard House Sparrows, House Finches, Gold Finches, Tufted Titmouse, CardinalIMG_6102IMG_2863