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

    • 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!
    • Yvonne
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      My neighbor had a robin build a nest in a hanging planter.  Sarah had planted fresh lettuce in it and the robin decided it would make a great nest.  We watched the robin gather weeds, straw, little twigs and whatever she could find in our flower garden to complete the job.  It was only a few feet from both our front doors, but the robin didn't seem to feel threatened. She soon laid the  eggs and spent a lot of time on the nest.  Her attitude seem to change when we would enter or leave our homes.  She would give some loud chirps and start to fly very close letting us know we had to leave the area. We also noticed the robin also kept other birds at bay.  The aggressive flying also was used to keep prey or nosey bird away.. The American Robin soon had some hatching eggs and ended up with 4 out of 5 eggs making it.  Mama spent a great deal of time feeding the birds, keeping them warm, and guarding their home.  We never saw the male. After  some days and the babies had grown their feathers the mama started coaxing the babies to flap their wings and move around the nest.  I thought it would take a long time for them to fly. It didn't.  In about 4 days they were flying about.  They stayed close by our homes and visited our flower gardens for worms and water.  I'd like to think they were coming by to say hello.
    • BathingGulls I am visiting the Oregon Coast and observed some Western Gulls (at least, I think they are Western Gulls) bathing. This is a fresh water stream and they are bathing where the stream meets the beach and the ocean.  I counted 114 gulls there. It was like they were having a party. They really seemed to be enjoying themselves.
    • All the bird cams right now are fun to watch with all the fluffy chicks!  On the feeder cam I saw a starling feeding her 3 chicks.
    • Alok
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Saw Red tailed hawk, American kestrels and Savannah Ospreys in the bird cam. While the Red tailed hawk was on guard of his offspring, the osprey couple were cleaning themselves. Saw a bunch of kestrel chics huddled together without either of their parents.   In the feeder cam saw American Robins, Black Birds and Red winged black birds. While Red winged black birds spent considerable time picking up grains, the other two species were fast movers.
    • Isabel
      Participant
      Chirps: 34
      Black Vultures Before the garbage truck picks up the garbage bags, this area becomes a feeder for black vultures
    • Roxane
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Avtivity 2. The black bellied Whistler ducks are so fun to watch at the feeder. They land away from the feeder and will watch for a few minutes. Then they slowly walk up, as if they don’t want to interrupt. Once there, one will be on the lookout while the others feed. They socialize well with all birds and ducks there.
    • Eric
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity 2: I find Black Capped Chickadees stay for the shortest time then any other bird at my feeders, and they only take one seed at a time. On the other hand, we have American Goldfinches which stay for the longest time at my feeders.
    • Kim
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Techniques for eating: It has been interesting to observe how different birds process the seed at my feeders. Tufted titmice, chickadees, and blue jays hold the seed between their feet and pound the shell with their beaks to get at the “meat” inside. While goldfinches, purple finches and grosbeaks can just crack the seed in their beaks and swallow the edible part.
    • Penny
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      We love bird cams! Since we do not yet have our own bird feeder, these cams are a fun way to observe different kinds of birds up close and personal. We have been watching a hummingbird nest cam for a couple of weeks. Those two babies are growing fast and they hardly fit in the nest anymore. It’s fascinating to watch the mother return to feed them, thrusting her beak so far down her baby’s throat it appears she might poke them all the way through! We also watch the Cornell Lab Feeder Cam every day. The blue jays will grab a peanut and fly away with it. The woodpecker hammers at the vertical trays. And then there are the squirrels...
    • Michelle
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Getting better at some call identification: Today I made out cardinal, red bellied woodpecker, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, European starling, crow, Eastern towhee.
    • Nicole
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I went to a lake - there were a lot of Canada Geese.  Watched them for a while, mostly foraging on the grass, but one interesting behavior was that, while the others were eating or resting, there would be a couple that stood at attention - like they were standing guard. I also watched a pair of buffleheads on the lake, diving for food.  It was just a pair (male and female), although there were others in a larger group with geese and mallards further down the lake.  I think I may have a new favorite bird - they were fun to watch.
    • Karrin
      Participant
      Chirps: 47
      Activity 2 was perfect for me this week because I just got several bird feeders from my local Buy Nothing group. I have enjoyed watching how different birds approach the seeds. A pair of tufted titmouses (or is it tufted titmice?) take turns at the feeder and take one seed at a time. The downy woodpecker takes only the sunflower seeds, while the Carolina chickadee only takes the millet. The house sparrows will sit and eat and eat until another bird comes to their perch. Some are bothered by the nearby squirrels looking out for anything that drops to the ground, while others are unfazed. It really is fascinating! I also tried Activity 3 - sort of. As of now, I can confidently identify the blue jay and the cardinal. I am trying to learn other calls.
    • Colleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      1.     Red-winged blackbirds.  Eat heartily and then fly away. Come back again. One picks up a big piece and holds it for a while and then eats it. Birds grab food and fly away before eating it. Present in a small flock of them.  (March 16, 2021 bird cam at Cornell) 2.     Viewed Panama Fruit Feeder Cam for a few minutes.  Observed a gorgeous Toucan pick up bits of banana at time.  Puts head back as it swallows pieces.  Pulls back peel and then picks out bits of fruit. Bill is a beautiful rainbow color.
    • Chloë
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      1.  The Dark Eyed Juncos operate as a flock (apart from one brave little guy who comes to the feeder) I see them in the trees or on the grass, if one startles they all do.  2.  We are lucky to have three different species of woodpecker on our feeder.  The Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers will stay on the suet feeder for several minutes, taking beak full after beak full of food, the Red Headed Woodpecker however only feeds from the peanut feeder, and never stays more than a few seconds.  Of the other birds, I always notice how incredibly speedy the Tufted Titmouse's visits are, compared to the sparrows.
    • Jana
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      1. Song sparrow flits around on ground and visits the ground below the feeder. Seems to go to the feeder when there are very few other birds present. Also spends time holding to branch, singing. 2. Song sparrow eats on the ground below and doesn’t stay too long. House finches sit on feeder and on the ground.  Seem to stay longer, usually in a group and will fly up to tree then right back for more food. 3. Song sparrows sings very often. Northern cardinal and house finches can also be heard.
    • Liz
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Watching a couple of feeders outside my windows has certainly taught me much. A smaller finch feeder brings lots of chick-a-dees and red breasted nut-hatches. A suet feeder brings these same birds, plus, hairy and downy wood peckers, white breasted nut hatches and blue jays. I even saw a brown creeper today. A bigger open feeder at the back of my house holds mostly sunflower seeds which the same birds (except the wood peckers) visit. Sometimes mourning doves come there as well. They all seem to take turns. Blue jays first, then comes the little red squirrel for  while. When he leaves the smaller birds have their turn. The blue jays hold the sunflower seeds in their toes, whack it open with their beak and then eat, all the while sitting on the edge of the feeder. The smaller birds grab a seed and sit in a nearby tree to eat.
      • Karrin
        Participant
        Chirps: 47
        I have learned A LOT from watching my feeders, too. I am up to 12 lifer birds on Merlin - how about you?
    • Elizabeth
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      There are ospreys nesting near my grandmother's house in Melbourne Beach, FL, and I caught this photo of a pair in a tree nearby--turned out to be a lucky shot of a mating attempt!P1000648
    • Kathleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 28
      Activity 1: I watched the Cornell Bird Feeder Cam and saw a number of birds that frequent my feeders in southeastern Michigan. The chickadees and titmice grabbed something to eat and flew away quickly. I read that the chickadees like to store food, which is one of the reasons they don't stay to eat. The white-breasted nuthatch spent a few minutes eating and then flew away. The downy woodpecker pecked steadily at the suet for several minutes and then flew away. The starlings stayed a little longer, eating seeds constantly. The Mourning Dove stayed the longest and ate very steadily. The dove's behavior was very docile and he/she shared the space easily with the smaller birds - who all seemed unconcerned about the presence of the larger bird. I read that doves fill their 'crops' and then fly away to digest while resting. Activity 2: I watched the Ontario Bird Feeder Cam, where I saw birds that frequent my feeder in southeastern Michigan, as well. Once again, the Chickadee was remarkably fast at grabbing food and leaving. The red-breasted Nuthatch spent a little more time but also left relatively quickly. Activity 3: I listened to the dawn chorus in a forest in central New York. The photo was quite lovely - I think it was of the beaver pond. The recording of the dawn chorus was really beautiful but I did not recognize any bird songs.
    • Loyal
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      We are fortunate enough to live in an area with a lot of open spaces. There are several red tailed hawks that frequent the area. We also have a large number of crows and mockingbirds. As such, “mobbing” is observed quite often.