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

    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      1. I watched a Robin sitting on an electric wire. He sat for a while, not singing but lifting one wing and (it looked like) scratching under it. I learned from your video that birds do scratch their itches. I have also watched robins and sparrows wash themselves in a container of water in our backyard. 2. Behavior at our sunflower seed feeder does vary: a number of sparrows come, eat for a while and then head for a hedge; the resident cardinal pair flies from a bush, eats at the feeder (where the sparrows sometimes get aggressive) and on the ground; the one chickadee swoops in for a seed and then flies to a tree branch to eat it. 3. Early one morning, I turned on Merlin and then forgot about it-in 20 minutes 17 birds were identified, mostly common ones to this area. Earlier this spring (May 5) in a nearby park with a stream, Merlin identified 28 different species, including five kinds of Warblers, an Indigo Bunting, two Orioles, an American Redstart, a Waterthrush and a Yellow-breasted Chat!
    • Jeanne
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I have a couple of hummingbird feeders & I have definitely observed the territorial fights between the birds over the feeders & flowers; such a dive bombing each other especially when one is at the feeder another will come & do a quick fly by & scare the bird that is feeding!
    • Barbara
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      We saw all of these behaviors at our feeders
    • Sarah
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Today, I was with a group for a 'tree walk', when we heard bird mobbing calls. It is so cool to come home and have this be in the lesson today.
    • Cheryl
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      Activity 3: I stepped out onto the back patio and could hear a Robin singing his heart out. Two Ring-billed Gulls flew overhead and squawked. A Blue Jay called from behind in a tree from the front yard and a Cardinal over to my right sang out. A little Dark-eyed Junco cheeped from a bush. The gulls were the only birds I could see from my vantage point.
    • Cheryl
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      Activity 2: House Sparrows come in groups and fight over the perches. They like the feeder, but will forage from underneath it too. We have a second feeder which allows both perching and clinging birds to visit. The Chickadees come and get a seed and quickly leave. The Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches stay a little longer. Sometimes the White-breasted Nuthatch will pull out seeds he doesn't want and drop them. His stay is about 10 seconds going around the openings and can do 3 of them in one visit. The Red-breasted stays longer than the Chickadee, but not as long as the White-breasted Nuthatch. The Downy Woodpeckers, both male and female come separately to visit the feeder, but each will stay on the feeder for about 30 seconds at a time, then going to a tree before returning to the feeder. The male and female Cardinals always come together three times a day and take turns on the feeder while the other is in the tree (preferred by the male) or on the ground foraging with the Juncos and House Sparrows (preferred by the female).
    • Cheryl
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      Activity 1 A Dark-eyed Junco was the only bird in the yard singing and singing from the forsythia. I recorded him. He flew down under the feeder and pecked and looked up, pecked and looked up, repeating this over and over. He would walk a few steps and do his eating ritual again. After a number of minutes of foraging, he flew back to the forsythia and stayed for about 15 seconds before flying higher into a burning bush where he stayed for an additional 30 seconds before flying off.
    • Jessica
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      There are so many blue jay cardinal red bellied woodpecker morning doves
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      activity 1: yesterday afternoon, I was watching a pair of mourning doves in my yard. They were sitting next to each other on the ground preening themselves.  When one walked a little bit away, the other would follow.  Then they started preening each other, by poking the other on the neck.  I read in "all about birds" that this is a pair bonding ritual. activity 2: I have 2 feeders with black oil sunflower seeds.  I mostly get house finches at them.  They will stay for several minutes on the feeders, or fly away briefly and come back.  Occasionally, a lesser or American goldfinch will come, but not stay very long.  Sometimes a jay will swoop in and hang on the feeder to get seeds, then fly away to crack them.  The mourning doves and white crowned sparrows feed on the ground under the feeders.  The doves will stay longer, the sparrows move around more and don't stay long.  It seems like they all eat one seed at a time, but it's hard to tell. activity 3: I have a hard time distinguishing most birds by sound.  I often hear more birds than I see, but am not sure what they are.  I can tell house finches and white crowned sparrows by sound.  I have a hard time telling lesser and American goldfinches apart by sound, but I can tell it's one of the two.  Crows, jays and mockingbirds are easy to tell.
    • Alexandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      1. Great horned owl- Threatening display: The owl expanded its wings and puffed up, opened its eyes really wide and snapped her beak. It was interesting to see that her pupils were different sizes. I saw this in a different species of owl on a video, but not this one.   2. Mourning doves and Blue Jays spend a lot of time at the feeder- they just sit for as long as they can and ignore the other birds. At one time there were 8 Mourning doves on the horizontal feeder! The smaller birds, like cardinals, will say for 20 seconds and leave. On this Cam, they all will take multiple seeds.   3.  Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Cardinal pair, Mourning Dove, and the American Crow These are the typical northeastern birds. We see them daily. Identifying them is pretty easy, but I have to admit, the Mourning Dove’s coo, until recently, I thought was an owl because of the “hoo-hoo” sound.
    • Vivian
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      #1 - I observed a palm warbler poking at orange and red small flowers of milkweed this afternoon.  I couldn’t tell if it was enjoying nectar or finding small insects. #2 - Boat tailed grackles remain at the feeder spreading seeds for others to enjoy on the ground, such as mourning doves.  Northern cardinals pick up sunflower seeds at the feeder, jump around nearby branches, and return to the feeder several times before flying away. #3- I recently learned to identify the song of a winter visitor, the palm warbler.  I can readily identify the boat tailed grackle, northern cardinal, blue jay, northern mockingbird bird, anhinga, and great blue heron (birds frequently observed in my backyard).
    • Jeanne
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 2:  I enjoy sitting with my camera handy watching the birds at my feeder in the hopes of photographing them.  In doing so I have a new relationship with the bossy bluejays.  They are so photogenic and seem to pose for me, giving me plenty of time and a variety of looks! Meanwhile the chickadees and tufted titmouse flight in, grab a seed, and dash out so quickly I’ve found them the most difficult to photograph.   1407F04E-57F5-41DC-B66C-3570B496B49C
    • Jeannette
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 2:  It is very interesting to watch the behavior of birds at our feeder.  The House Sparrows visit the feeder in flocks.  They eat seeds on the ground and on the feeder.  Occasionally the House Sparrows squabble with other birds to protect their spot at the feeder.  The Red-bellied Woodpecker and the Downy Woodpecker enjoy eating the suet cake.
    • PAMELA
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity  2. Feeder has been busy this  morning.  The Bluejays  like to come early. They give  out the  call that food is here. Soon lots of Bluejays are taking turns for the food. Sometimes  there is a scuffle, but one flies away and comes back  when the coast is clear. Then the Cardinals  have their turn. Quietly she eats while he keeps  a lookout.  So nice to watch.    
    • Alice
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 2:
      • Pine Warbler
        • These stay at the feeder for about 10 seconds eating and watching
      • Carolina Chickadee
        • Quick.. grab and go
      • Mourning Doves
        • These birds stay for minutes even sit in the platform feeders until another bird comes along
      • Blue Jay
        • Calls before approaching the bird feeder and loads up on nuts and seeds before flying off. bluejay
    • We have a community pond in town where I like to take afternoon walks.  This time of year it is filled with coots and few ducks I'm having trouble identifying.   Last week I was walking and noticed the coots gathered into a tight group when usually they are spread out all over lake.  I looked up and noticed a bald eagle soaring overhead and now assume that the tight grouping must be a defensive move on the coots part.
    • Beth
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      I know only a few bird calls like Canada Geese on the wing, crows cawing, herring gulls screaming, and blue jays scolding.  There are so many calls by warblers and song birds I don't know yet.  Perhaps learning bird calls is like learning a foreign language?
    • Beth
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      House Finches stay longer at the backyard seed feeders.  Sometimes they look around and then go back to eating.  They stand n the lower dish or the perch.  The white-breasted nuthatch and Carolina chickadee fly in and away quickly when feeding.  I usually see more birds feeding in the late afternoon before dark.  This seems to be a favorite time of day to fill up.
    • Raphael
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      On my walk outside, I noticed a large flock of European starlings in a tree -- their "caw-ing" sounded similar to that of the Red-winged blackbird. There must have been 20 or so of them perched up in the tree, calling at each other. Then all of a sudden they all flew away at the same time. The way that they're able to move and act together can at times be mezmorizing.
    • Nancy
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: Saw a house sparrow enjoying a bath in a puddle on our pool cover. Bird looked very large and puffy while fluffing its feathers and maneuvering in the water to wash itself. It would dip part of its body in the water then shake and puff the feathers, and used its head to preen, with chirps here and there. This all happened repeatedly over the course of about 2 minutes. Then the bird flew to the top of the nearby fence post. I noticed how small and trim the bird looked sitting on the fence post compared to when it was fluffing and bathing. What fun to watch this! Prior to my newfound interest in birds I would not have paid much attention to what birds were doing. So much to see. A whole new world has opened up! Activity 2: Watched the Cornell Sapsucker Woods Feeder Cam. The European Starlings tend to bully other birds out of their spots on the platform, even if there’s plenty of room for everyone. Mourning Doves tend to coexist with other birds on the platform and move out of the way of other birds. Hairy woodpecker pecks at the hanging feeder and stays awhile, then leaves and comes back. Red-breasted Nuthatch is skittish- flies to a hanging feeder, grabs seed and quickly flies away. Blue Jay flies to the hanging feeder with peanuts, grabs a whole peanut and flies away with it. Activity 3:  Listened to birds outside in my backyard. Dozens of European Starlings perched in 2 trees calling to each other. Heard more than one Blue Jay in a tree calling to others. Heard a Mourning Dove. Also heard chirps, probably a House Sparrow.
    • Gretel
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      We recently had an earthquake in Melbourne and my mind went straight to birds sitting on nests as it is springtime here! Here is a link to the video of our local peregrine falcons nesting, I believe it was the male incubating at the time: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/video/2021/sep/23/the-moment-melbournes-peregrine-falcon-reacts-to-the-citys-historic-earthquake-video?utm_term=Autofeed&CMP=twt_gu&utm_medium&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1632356910   To start with he crouches down to protect the eggs, I guess! But once they realised nothing was going to fall she got up to look around before flying off! Both males and female peregrine falcons incubate the eggs, if you watch the live stream you can see them switch over every now and then.
    • Carol
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity 1.  I had read recently of how roadrunners drop their body temperature at night and then the next day will spend time in the sun to warm up.  After having read that information, I was able to witness a roadrunner sunning itself, standing on a rock with its back to the sun and wings slightly spread apart.  Exciting that I already had the information before seeing the behavior. Activity 2.  I have the pleasure of attracting Ravens to my feeding area.  I don't use standard feeders, just throw food on the ground.  Ravens will stuff as much food as they can into their craw and beak, and then fly off to cache it in another location.  Then the ravens will return for more food, and basically repeat the process.  Also the Woodhouse Scrub Jays are similar in picking up food and flying off to cache it, as well as using their beak to open seeds on tree limbs.  The Juniper Titmouse I also have observed uses its beak to hammer open sunflower seeds on the tree limbs.
    • Alanna
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      Activity 2: I have noticed that the Black-capped Chickadee tends to go to my feeders not for a long time. The bird will either grab a seed and fly away or the bird will stay where it is at at the feeder and open the seed up by putting the sunflower seed between its feet and hammering it open. The House Sparrows tend to stay for a bit I would say less than 5 minutes depending on how much seed and how hungry. These birds would peck at the seeds or on the ground and (Activity 2:) they tend to look up as they eat and now I know they look up to see by checking their surroundings if there are predator coming by or near. I noticed too that birds at my feeders would get very territorial for example I saw a Male House Sparrow scaring off the female House Sparrows away from the food and the American Goldfinches tend to do the same with each other by fighting over the food. A few months back I had Common Blackbirds start to take over my feeders and the smaller birds like that sparrow and finches did not want to go near them until they were either gone or would get the leftover seeds that were pushed off the feeders. I saw it as predators were by and they did not want to go near them.          
    • Yvonne
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I enjoy watching the birds at my feeder. Mostly I see house finches and house sparrows. The finches daintily pick out the seeds and quietly eat, although there can be some squabbles. The house sparrows, on the other hand, make a big mess, scattering seed everywhere. About a year ago I watched a male house sparrow teach his youngster how to use the feeder. They first landed on the roof and dad would fly down to the feeder and take seed up to junior and feed him. After a few minutes dad left junior alone on the roof. Pretty soon the youngster flew down onto the grass , so dad started taking seed down to him. After a few minutes of this dad returned to the feeder and junior got up the courage to join him at the feeder. The adult gave him a few more seeds and finally the youngster started pecking at the seeds himself. The funniest behavior I’ve seen are the Eurasian Collared Doves. They’re too big for the feeder, but they have learned how to balance on the swinging feeder and turn sideways so they can reach the seed. It works especially well if there’s a pair of them. They perch on either side of the feeder each with one wing extended, balancing the feeder. It really is quite a feat.
    • Susan
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Morning Vulture Yoga When I have been walking in the mornings, just as the sun is coming up, I have seen turkey vultures facing the rising sun with their wings stretched either partially or completely extended. I finally was able to get a fair picture of what I call "morning vulture yoga."
      • On one of my morning bike rides I came upon some bare leafed trees which were full of turkey vultures. I counted 22 in 4 trees!