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

    • Michael
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      The white-breasted nuthatch that visits daily has a definite preference for our peanut feeder. It pecks away until it gets a peanut in its beak and then immediately leaves the feeder. This behavior contrasts with the tufted titmouse that perches on top of a seed cake and only seems to leave when challenged by a larger bird.
    • Michael
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      We have a pair of northern cardinals (male and female) that appear to take turns at our feeders. It could be that one is keeping watch while the other feeds. They don't seem threatened by any other birds (except perhaps the blue jay). Perhaps they are keeping an eye out for cats and hawks.
    • Stacey
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I noticed that when the Pine Siskin were by themselves (or sometimes with one more), it was displaced by every bird who came to the feeder. They were very timid and scattered easily. But once there was 3 or more Siskin at the feeder, they didn't budge. At one point a Black-capped Chickadee was trying to land at the feeder, where 5 Siskin had planted themselves firmly for a snack. The Chickadee tried several times, even flapping its wings and trying to lunge forward, and the Siskin didn't move, almost even ignored him. Finally, a couple of the Siskin opened their beaks at him and that was enough to scare him off.
    • Kyle
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      I observed several bird cams so that I could closely see what they're doing.  I saw a lot of blue jays, and they were interesting because they seemed to get several seeds in their beaks before they swallowed them.  The goldfinch, titmouse and cardinals were comfortable to sit on the feeder and enjoy the food.  The chickadee grabbed a seed very quickly and then flew back to a safe spot. A group of pine siskins came to the feeder, and it was cool to see them watching constantly for threats.  I was also happy to finally see a northern royal albatross on the webcam, and it was preening.
    • Alison
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      I saw a hairy woodpecker at my feeder today, and it actually seemed to be eating seeds from it- I’d thought they didn’t come to feeders for some reason. It was pecking the nearby tree trunk and eating from the feeder alternately. The other birds, Juncos and Pine Siskin, were cautious of the much bigger woodpecker, and avoided the feeder when it was nearby.
    • Erin
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity #1- I watched the feeder in my yard this morning and had lots of options as it was bustling with activity! I landed on a little bird I didn't recognize but found it very beautiful- mostly brown with a streaky belly and a beautiful black-and-white striped crown with two points of yellow by its eyes.. a White-throated Sparrow I learned, with the help of Merlin. It was foraging below the feeder, for the seeds that had dropped to the ground. It looked liked it was mostly using its beak to grab seeds but I also noticed it scratching at the grass/leaf-litter with its feet.. was this double-scratching? The movement was so fast it was hard to tell but cool to see a different foraging technique in action.
    • I watched a bird - wasn't able to ID it at the time - at the Panama fruit feeder using its foot to preen the head feathers.  Cool to realize now that of course they have to use their foot on their head for this very important task.  It was also rubbing its beak back and forth on the branch.  I often wondered about this behavior and it seemed almost of a social one, now I know it could be, but primarily is for cleaning the beak area. I identified a Summer tanager at the Panama Fruit feeder as well - it was eating not from the fruit, but from within the wood.  Wondering if there are insects placed there - I read that it eats bees and wasps in a rather violent matter to first remove the stinger. Some birds seem to stay for a longer period of time, while some others just grab a seed and go - but have seen this happen as a result of displacement. I am growing very familiar with the birds outside my house and can readily ID the songs/sounds of at least: dark eyed junco, chickadee, Steller's Jay, golden crowned sparrow, bushtit, Northern flicker, and song sparrow.
    • Sara
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      1. While watching the Panama Fruit feeder cam after one of the attendants put out more fruit these large chicken like birds came crashing down from above the camera and descended on what looked like papaya, it was intense and there were so many of them, had never seen anything like it. When I used merlin to ID them taking a photo of my screen one of the sentences said "small flocks crashing clumsily through the trees" and I was like yep that's them hahaha  Another bird I ID'd last year for the first time was the double crested cormorant and confirmed the ID with the description that after they dive they perch and spread their wings to the sun to dry their feathers, I like when the birds behave in the ways that they guide says they do I find it fascinating:) 2. At the Cornell Feeder I noticed the chickadees do just grab a seed and quickly fly off as well as the tufted titmouse, while the gold finches and jays just sit their eating till they are done. 3. The only ones I have been able to identify by sound are the red-winged blackbird, the blue jays, and cardinals. I did utilize the merlin ID sound bytes to confirm a bunch of golden-crowned kinglets with their high-pitched calls, they answered audio I was playing on my phone kinda cool
    • Aiden
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      I saw a number of Dark-Eyed Juncos feeding. They appeared to just be pecking the ground. All about birds says that they do this by hopping around on the ground and also glean insects. At the Panama feeder cam, the hummingbirds take quick sips from the feeder then dart away. Given that it is nighttime, that's all I could see. At the Ontario feeder cam, I listened to a previous highlight recording. I heard at least four different species: a loud call that I presumed to be the woodpecker shown in the video, a whooping call (Northern Cardinal? We don't have any where I live), a number of higher pitched calls (maybe chickadees) as well as a common raven.
    • Activity 2 - The larger birds, like Cardinals and Blue Jays, do not get displaced as easy. A Junco, or Chickadee, gets easily scared, and displaced. By, the larger Birds, and the threat of predators. The smaller birds, seem to stay at the feeder for less time. By putting food in their cheeks, and then depositing them at a safe nest. The larger birds, Cardinals and Blue Jays, crack the nut and seeds, at the feeder. Also, they are not as super scared, of predators, or other birds. They are still flighty, and they fly away over sounds, or perceived threats. But not as much, or as in such a hurried frenzy, as Juncos, Sparrows, and smaller Finches. Larger billed birds, seem to have an easier time, with seeds and nuts. Taking more at once, and eating in place. Smaller birds, are scared of being out in the open. So they eat less in place, and take more back to home base. (nestled nest.)   Activity 3 -  I hear a lot of Blue Jays, and Cardinals. With the background of Chickadees and Nuthatches. I would say, the most common sounds are, the WHOOP TK WHOOP TK WHOOP, of the Northern Cardinal. And the JEER JEER, of the Blue Jay. The Blue Jay, has an ugly sound, for such a beautiful bird. Strange, that the best looking bird, sounds so off/weird. The Cardinals' sound is more, easy on the ear. Those two, make the loudest sounds. And the Chickadees, and Nuthatches, and Titmice, make softer, background noises. In more constant bunches. ????
    • Activity 1 - I went on a nature walk today, and saw a whole pond of Ducksblue duck 2, in a DABBLING PATTERN. Where every Duck, would dunk, and bob, in a pattern. For minutes on end. The same way a Robin, on the lawn, or a Shorebird, on the sand, would routinely forage. The Ducks, would go under, and come back up, for minutes on end. They seemed to dunk, and come back up, without really hunting. I know, that they are not Diving Ducks, they were Dabblers. So it seems they would dunk a few feet, and 'buoy,' back up. But without any real aim. Because the whole pond of ducks, were doing so, for the whole time I was there. What energy ! Do they get tired ? Does it work ? Fish or/and plant hunting ?
    • Activity 3: I chose to listen to bird songs by watching and listening to the Canopy Lodge Bird Cam for five minutes.  While there were many  different species on screen, they were not vocalizing.  What I have discovered in my first year of birding, is that "hearing" the birds is critical to finding the birds.  I am studying bird song each day on Merlin and challenging myself with app games.  My hearing is not as good as others, but with time I am hoping to get better at knowing many of the species songs.
    • Activity 2:  I chose to watch several beautiful birds at Canopy Lodge in Panama on Bird Cam.  While watching these birds on Bird Cam, I focused my attention to how the different species use different techniques for eating.  The Gray-colored Thrush never seemed to leave the table with the fruit and while they grabbed pieces to eat, they were constantly looking around and guarding this food source.  The Blue-Gray Tanagers, The Green Honeycreepers were NOT to be driven completely away by the Thrushes, however they were clearly intimated by them.  Especially the Green Honeycreepers would not leave and they would sneak in grab fruit and sometime continue to eat if not bulled away too badly by the Team of Thrush Guards !  The Flamed-rumped Tanager (in his striking yellow & black plumage and white/blue beak) would fly in and charge the Thrushes and drive them off !  It would then leisurely eat as much fruit as it wanted and withing 20 seconds it would be gone again !
    • Activity 1: What could be more fun than to watch beautiful birds at Canopy Lodge in Panama on Bird Cam !  I have been watching for over 30 minutes and have been able o observe the foraging behavior of Clay-colored Thrush, Green Honey Creepers, Blue-gray Tanagers, Crimson-backed Tanagers, Flame-rumped Tanagers, Chestnut-headed Oropendolas and Gray-headed Chachalas !  These would of course, all be Life Birds for me if I were there live!  5 pieces of cut fruit are laid on a board on a table and 2 sugar feeders hang from nearby posts.  The Gray-colored Thrush' are dominating the table and they chase off the smaller species from the fruit.  The Green Honeycreepers cleverly sneak in and grab fruit when the Thrushes are pre-occupied chasing others or flying away.  The Green Honeycreeper is bold enough to never fly off and it continued to hop around the table waiting for another chance to get some fruit ! It was obvious that the Green Honeycreeper continually looked up & around between bites of fruit to stay on guard for predators. The Blue-gray Tanagers were much more timid and kept their distance from the Thrushes.  They would land on corners, farther away from the Thrushes and only move in for the fruit when the Thrushes had completely flown away.  However, the Flame-rumped Tanager is aggressive and it charged the Thrushes with its beak extended and chased them off.  It then took its time eating the fruit.  This was a fun assignment !  
    • Joe
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 2: I watched the Cornell FeederWatch Cam, and saw several species, including Northern Cardinals, Red Wing Blackbirds, Blue Jays, American Goldfinches, Black Cap Chickadees,  a Red Bellied Woodpecker and Tufted Titmice (does the plural of Titmouse work the same as the rodent mouse?). The larger species (Cardinal, Blackbird, Woodpecker) as well as the Goldfinches posted up and ate for a little bit, looking up between bites to maintain vigilance. But the chickadees and the titmice would grab one bit of food and fly back to the cover of the trees. Perhaps their size makes them feel a bit more vulnerable out in the open?
    • Devin
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Activity 1: I used Merlin to identify a Pied-billed Grebe as it swam along in a slow-flowing river. Then it looked like the bird went underwater. I assumed it was looking for food, but it seemed to stay submerged for a long time. I looked it up in my field guide, and the guide mentioned that this species sometimes hides from intruders by sinking until only its head shows. That was the exact behavior I witnessed. Activity 2: I just watched the American Crow at the feeder cam in Ontario, Canada. It was greedily hording a stash of peanuts. It looked like it completely filled its bill with as many nuts as it could hold. I read in the comments that American Crows will look for places to stash its food and then come back later when it wants to eat. Like it has its own pantry. Activity 3: At my favorite birding hotspot, I've been able to identify the Norther Flicker's call. I also hear lots of Robins. The Black-capped Chickadee has a distinctive hey sweetie call, too.
    • I live in Mechanicsburg PA.  Since enrolling in the Joy of Birdwatching course, I have notice a significant drop in Northern Mockingbird sightings.  I would see them daily in my back yard as well as when riding my bike through the local parks and adjoining neighborhoods. In fact, I haven’t seen any mockingbirds for at least two months.  They are supposed to be year long residents here. Anybody else notice this?
      • Mary
        Participant
        Chirps: 1
        I also live in Mechanicsburg, PA and have observed the same reduction in Mockingbird sightings. I have only seen a few during the last year when they used to be numerous. No idea why. I miss hearing their extensive repertoire of songs.
    • Jon
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 1 : Last weekend while birding in Central Park I spotted a small brown bird climbing the trunk of a tree. The way it was moving up the tree and pecking at the wood for insects was an immediate indication it was likely a Brown Creeper. I was able to confirm this once I got my binoculars on it. The shape of the bird and its beak was also a clear indication. Out of many of the birds I've seen while in the field, this bird is a standout example of identifying a bird based on it's behavior.
    • Patricia
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      Activity 1. I saw a good number of American Crows on the beach, they were tossing seaweed about and then digging into the sand.  I had not noticed this behavior with beaks in the sand and quarreling over the spot too.  I knew it was foraging for food but what kind?  My friend knew that we had a grunion run and the tide came in as far as the seaweed.  They were eating the fish eggs. Activity 2. This was the first time I watched a bird feeder cam, what a treat to see so many East Coast Birds.  It can be addictive and so very busy.  I was trying to ID the birds and then realized that I need to record the eating behavior.  So I noticed that the Eastern Phoebe comes to the feeder and takes a seed and is gone.  Mourning Doves feed off the fallen seed and often had a several birds that pretty much ignored the others.  Blue Jays would come and go eating 1 to 5 seeds, they were constantly checking the activity.  A Common Flicker takes a seed and goes elsewhere to eat.  The Tri-colored Blackbirds came in a group of 5 to 6 and got down to the business of eating.  And a few Brewer Blackbirds came in very aggressive and succeeded in getting some of the birds to leave until they were gone. Activity 3.  In the morning, I have a regular greeting from the back yard birds.  I have not been able to indentify all the species I hear.  But I can tell the following by sound;  American Mocking Bird, Humming birds (now Allen’s or Anna’s), Titmice, Finches (Lesser or House), American Crows, Acorn Woodpeckers, Red Shoulder Hawk, Red Tail Hawk, Mourning Doves, and Black-headed Phoebe. Pat
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity 3: I sat out in my backyard and listened carefully to all of the birds. This was not much different from what I normally do, as I birdwatch in my yard pretty much every day. I am always listening and hoping to hear something I do not recognize. This particular time I hear many of the usual birds, Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadees, Northern Mockingbird, Downy Woodpeckers, and Blue Jays. Then I heard something I had not heard for a good while, a Northern Flicker, first one of the season! First I heard his "kleer" and then I was able to locate him and see him, as well as get a picture of him. Listening is a skill I continue to work on. I recognize many of the birds I see (and hear) on a regular basis but I am not familiar with the calls or songs of birds I do not frequently see and hear. If I hear a bird I do not recognize, then I do all I can to track it down and figure out what it is. I often listen to calls/songs on Merlin of birds that might be in my area that I am not familiar with their calls.IMG_4943 (2)
    • Jessica
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      I watched a Tufted Titmouse for quite some time.  Firstly, I noticed it flying back and forth between the two feeders in my yard.  I then saw it perched on top of the bird feeder pole as it was cracking open a sunflower seed.  I also saw it engaging in what appeared to be playful behavior with the other Titmice around the feeders.  I wasn't really surprised with any of my observations as I often watch them at the feeders.  They are very vocal, playful birds.   Again, the Tufted Titmice typically appear to take one seed at a time and crack it open.  They spend a lot of time at the feeders and flying back/forth from them.  The White Breasted Nuthatch tends to spend less time at the feeders and will only climb up or down the poles--not across the feeders.  The Mourning Doves are ground feeders and will only stay on the ground to eat the seed on the ground. Listening to the birds for five minutes I heard Black-Capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White Breasted Nuthatch, a Caroline Wren in the background as well
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity 2: For this activity - watching different birds feeding, I frequently see the different eating styles of my typical birds at my feeder. For example, the Carolina Chickadee and the Tufted Titmouse make trips to the feeder to grab their prize and take it to a nearby branch to work on it, while the House Finch and the Northern Cardinal stay at the feeder eating seeds and nuts one after the other. I went to a local lake where I observed a Little Blue Heron and a Tri-color Heron feeding in the shallows almost side by side much of the time. These two birds appear very similar standing side by side but watching them feed, their feeding styles differ greatly. The Little Blue Heron stood still or slowly walked calmly and attentively looking around as it foraged in the shallows. When it saw something it would tilt it's head, look, and then grab its prey and eat it. The Tri-color Heron was almost never still. It would zoom and dart all around, opening it's wings and holding them up casting a shadow that somehow assisted it's efforts. When it located it's prey it would often appear like a coiled snake striking, pulling it's head back in a cocked position and then strike out almost over extending itself and grabbing it's prey and wolfing it down. Then more dancing and zooming around to do it all over again. While I had seen these behaviors in the past, I had never really studied them in this manner with the intent of really recognizing the difference in different birds feeding behaviors.IMG_1650IMG_1654IMG_1661
    • Ann
      Participant
      Chirps: 16
      The picture below after this shows the quail at our feeder. We thought they were only this organized when they had their babies but some groups remain this organized.  Some are more free for all like this one. MFDC0566
    • Ann
      Participant
      Chirps: 16
      MFDC0960
    • Jon
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      In our backyard here in Queens NYC we have a family of 5 Northern Cardinals. The Male, Female, and 3 juveniles. This past week we started to see them out together a lot more throughout our backyard and the ones surrounding it. The Male and Female would fly to different areas of the yards and call their young to follow. We watched as they seemingly were teaching them how to do different things such as cleaning their bills. We also watched as they fed them and seemingly showed them how to forage for food. While both the Male and Female are present, it seems as though the majority of the back and forth between the juveniles and the parents is done by the female and the young with the male nearby and involved but not as much.