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

    • 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.
    • Doug
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I drove out to a nearby lake and dam area and saw bald eagles diving at duck and geese. Also saw "mobbing behavior" where red wing blackbirds were mobbing crows.
    • Gracen
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Some of the birds I saw eating at a feeder would take the food and go, while others ate one seed at a time. I found that fascinating because it really shows how their beaks are designed to eat in a way that is comfortable for them and serves them the best.
    • Allison
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      These were challenging, but fun, activities.  I realize that I "watch" all the birds at our feeding station, but I rarely pay attention to one specific bird for an extended period of time.  It was interesting to change my perspective in that way.  My best observations come when I am inside the house watching through a window, but I lose sight of the bird when it flies off into the trees.  Also, when I am inside, I can't really hear their vocalizations. To do the third activity, I sat outside in a quiet spot and heard at least five or six different bird songs.  I was able to easily identify the sound of a blue jay (since I'd just heard it on one of the links presented earlier in this class), and soon I could spot it flying from tree to tree.  It's most common call was three loud repeated sounds, not quite the "caw-caw-caw" of a crow but a bit similar.   I saw a mockingbird fly from our roof to a tree, and it made a short call (five notes or so) that was not particularly distinctive.  There were several house finches, actively flying back and forth between the trees and the feeders. Their call sounded a bit like "cha-cheep cha-CHEEP, cha-cheep cha-CHEEP."  Two slightly different songs were extended repetitive and regular sounds, almost like a trill but not as fast.  One was quieter than the other, almost like a background noise.  I heard another bird call that sounded like "chirp-chirp-chirp" and another than sounded to me like "tweeter-tweeter-tweeter."  I couldn't see any of these birds, so I queried Merlin for typical songs and calls for the birds I see most often in my yard.  It is possible that the "tweeter-tweeter-tweeter" was a titmouse and possible that some of the quieter repetitive sounds were from goldfinches, chickadees and/or nuthatches.  A chirping sound seems to be often associated with robins, but I haven't seen any robins lately.  It could have been a slightly different song from a mockingbird, cardinal or other bird.  I have a LOT to learn.
    • Lesley
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      California Quail are common in our region (Central Vancouver Island, British Columbia) and it was a treat to watch the behavior of a covey in our backyard all this summer (2020) that were almost daily visitors. My husband and I decided that they are quite eccentric birds in their behavior, but really they were just demonstrating all the topics in this section. The male's song declared his territory in the spring, sharp calls alerted danger, soft coos and clucks from the adults moved the group along or signaled the parents' location to the brood. At first it was just a male and female that made an appearance in the yard, scratching for seeds that that other birds had kicked out of the feeder. They stuck close to one another and nonchalantly meandered into and out of the open area, ducking under the hedge when it was time to go. Eventually, one or the other showed up alone, and although we worried a bit, we concluded that there must be eggs in the nest and that they must be spelling each other off. I don't know if this is true, but this is what we surmised. Eventually, we watched 15 chicks scramble through our yard when they first hatched. The male kept a perch up above, either on the roof of the house, or from a fence post, watching for dangers (aka the neighbor's cat.) Over the coming weeks, the number of chicks dwindled down to four that began to grown big, but then there were three. Happily we got to see these three grow as big as the adults, every day showing up in the yard to eat seeds, the male usually perched somewhere above them, watching, or he'd flutter down to eat and lead the group through to the "exit." A curious behavior that we observed was that the little family was joined in mid-summer by another adult male and female, a pair not quite as large as the parents -- we wondered if this was last year's kids! The four adults and three juveniles hung out in our yard, visiting two or three times a day, sometimes taking mud baths and siestas in soft dusty soil in the flower beds where I'd often see them altogether as a group. Gradually, we began to see the chicks' feathers taking on male or female colors, and their "fascinators" taking shape on their heads. Darling birds. One day, in later August they didn't come to visit. We have no idea where they went and they haven't been back. I read that quail will form larger coveys with neighboring quail in the autumn, so we like to think that they are all tucked into a nearby thicket of blackberry bushes, having a quail party.
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      For Activity 1 I went outside and sat and watched several birds. First I watched three Tufted Titmice as they gleaned bugs from the undersides of the leaves in an oak tree. I saw several times some beak wiping. Then one of them started calling repeatedly and then flew across the yard to a magnolia tree. The other two followed. They seemed to be a family unit. Once they got over to the magnolia tree they continued gleaning bugs from the undersides of the leaves, and the one that had been calling continued being very vocal. It was joined by another group of Tufted Titmice. It turned out there were a total of seven of them. After that I watched a Downy Woodpecker as it foraged in the branches of a small dead tree. It found a sunny spot and started fluffing and preening. It was also doing some scratching of it's head with it's foot. I never would have realized that this was just a part of the preening process. The fact that they can not reach their head in any other way had never occured to me. Watching in this moment it was clear that it was a part of the birds preening.
    • Christine
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I particularly enjoy watching blue jays pick through the peanuts-in-the-shell I put out for them, but haven't seen any in quite a while (and even when they are around, they really are quick about picking what they want and taking off). Meanwhile the red winged blackbirds and grackles took off with most of the peanuts while the blue jays were on hiatus. I have never been good at recognizing bird sound (or musical notes, for that matter), but I have been listening to different bird sounds here. Today I heard a loud distinctive call outside, and I just knew it was a blue jay, and sure enough, I ran to the window and there was a beautiful blue jay standing on top of the curved hook on my feeder crowing and scaring everybody else away.
    • Luke
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity 3: Birding by ear for five minutes. I was able to recognize five bird species; Carolina Wren, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch and Gray Catbird. I also heard a burbling, warbling kind of a bird sound in a shrubby, weedy area but I couldn’t see the bird.
    • Luke
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      • Activity 2: Cornell Lab Feeder Cam
      • Black-capped chickadees invariably grab one seed and go.
      • Mourning Doves prefer to sit in the seed tray and swallow as many small seeds as they can.
      • Northern Cardinal likes to take medium to large seeds, open them at the feeder And discard the husks, and will stay long enough to take a few seeds.
      • Red-bellied Woodpecker alights on the vertical tube, takes a mouthful and flies off.
      • Common Grackle pushes other birds out and takes the biggest seeds, crushing them in its large beak.
      • Red-winged Blackbirds perch on the tube feeder to eat and will stay a few minutes.
    • Kathryn
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Is this a Broad Winged Hawk?
    • Kathryn
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      IMG_7870
    • Cynthia
      Participant
      Chirps: 16
      Activity 2: To keep the Hooded Orioles away from my hummingbird feeders, I put up an oriole feeder with oranges and grape jelly, as I had been advised.  The orioles love it, and it did the trick.  But when they come to feed they swoop in quite noisily and frighten away all of the other birds from the tube feeders, mostly finches and sparrows. The orioles will stand on the other feeders, even though they have no interest in the food contained therein, then erratically fly to their own feeder where they nervously peck at the food for a few seconds and fly off.  Interestingly, the House Finches have also taken a liking to the jelly and oranges, and I see them feeding at the oriole feeder more often than the orioles.  The finches take their time, as long as they aren’t being harassed, luxuriating on the jelly and oranges.
    • Luke
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity 1: I watched a Cedar Waxwing for about ten minutes. It was early morning and the sun’s rays were just kissing the treetops. The waxwing sat in the highest tips of a dead tree in the bright sunlight and was preening and stretching . I imagine the bird was warming up for it’s busy day.
    • Kenton
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      The birds I saw at the feeder were a variety of birds. The first bird I saw was a European Starling, feeding on some sunflower seeds for about 7 minutes. I then saw a Nuttall's Woodpecker for about 11 minutes on 2 different feeders. Then, I saw two Red-Winged Blackbirds in exactly the same area. They had one thing in common: they stayed away from each other.
    • Jennifer
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 2: I watched the Cornell Feeder Cam and what a cornucopia of birds to see! The first bird to appear was a Blue jay followed shortly thereafter by a Red Winged Blackbird. They were both on the same feeder. The Jay didn't stay very long. Another Red Winged Blackbird appeared on a separate feeder but a Grackle landed and seemed to chase the Blackbird off. A Mourning Dove appeared. The Grackle landed near it bit didn't scare it off. Shortly thereafter another Mourning Dove appeared at the feeder. The Mourning Doves spent the most time at the feeder. Shortly thereafter a Woodpecker appeared ( Possibly a Hairy Woodpecker) followed by a second one. There also appeared to be a male and femalle Cardinal. It was fascinating to watch.
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      Activity 1 I watched a group of Oak Titmice with great admiration and amusement. The group descended in to an oak tree. So many can fit in there but they are so tiny you can hardly see them from a distance. Such a cute bird with a lot of personality. They were crawling all over the branches and many were hanging upside down. I learned that this is their method of foraging for insects. Oak Titmice can also open nuts by holding them with their feet and pecking with their bill. I have not seen this yet but will be watching for it.
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      Blue Jays were the first birds to appear when I watched the Cornell Lab Feeder Cam at Sapsucker Woods. First there was one using a fly in, grab, fly out technique. Then there were two using the same feeding method. One then settled on the solid seed feeder and took his time pecking while the other perched nearby and almost seemed to be keeping watch. A Red-winged Blackbird landed on a sunflower seed feeder and ate for about twenty seconds before leaving. Mourning Doves ate from the bottom tray of the little house feeder. They take their time and seem to eat a seed at a time. I am going to check back to the Panama Fruit Feeder. When I looked before there were Hummingbirds. One at a time they zipped in and out from the feeder so fast I am not even sure what kind they were.
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      Certain birds come around every evening at this time of year and from practice I can identify some of their songs. The Mourning Dove, California Scrub-Jay, American Crow are very distinct. It is nice to hear the Common Raven’s croak. The Dark-eyed Junco, the Spotted Towhee and the Bewick’s Wren have unique songs. The California Quail make their ca CAA ca and kissing sounds. When I hear drumming the  Nuttall’s Woodpecker is usually near. The Red-shouldered Hawk’s screech can not be mistaken.
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 1: After watching the Cornell Feeder Cam I can say I saw a lot of foraging of seeds. At first a mourning dove arrived but was chased away by grackles. Shortly after the grackles arrived, so did a blue jay. The grackles were looking up quite a bit but I’m not too sure if that’s anti-predator behaviour. Grackles are fair sized birds. Finally the grackles left and the mourning dove returned and really just did nothing but eat for quite a while. Activity 2: Cornell Feedercam: Mourning Dove, Grackles and a Blue Jay Activity 3: Listened to the feedercam but couldn’t make out too many bird calls or bird songs. I’m really bad at identifying bird calls and bird sounds though.