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

    • Theresa
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      The other morning when I was out running I stopped to watch 4 egrets in a pond in my neighborhood.  A couple of them were wading, presumably hunting, and the other two were taking turns hopping up, flying down to the other end of the pond and looping back to where they started.  One would hop up and fly away and the other would follow.  Not sure if they were playing or if it was a territory thing.  One of them did a little vocalizing on one of his loops and let's just say he's not the singer that some of the birds in the Birdsong topic were....more of a croak than a song.   Red-tailed hawks are very common around here and I always get a strange sort of kick out of seeing them get mobbed...the "mobbers" really don't hold back.  The other night I saw a hawk getting mobbed and it even looked like one of the smaller birds (couldn't tell what they were) clipped him.  Must be a real rush for the little guys.  ;)
    • Devery
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I've been watching birds at a feeder that hangs just outside a dining room window.  It's a cylindrical tube feeder covered in wire mesh with 4 perches and holes where the birds can eat the seeds.  I typically see house sparrows and house finches on it, occasionally a song sparrow and goldfinch. Mourning doves and sometimes cardinals will be on the ground below, along with squirrels and sparrows,  picking up what has fallen out of the feeder or birds have dropped.  At times as many as 8 or 9 birds will be hanging onto the feeder fighting each other for a perch and food.  They will fly to the top of the garage which is about 10 feet away to take a break and plan their next attack on the feeder. Some of them are quite aggressive and will push others off the perches or, while on a perch, fight other birds tying to get on.  They are voracious and can devour all the seeds in the feeder in less than a day.
    • Cathy
      Participant
      Chirps: 45
      I just spent some time watching the hawks on the webcam.  There were separate videos for each hatch (of 3 eggs) and then for their fledging.  It was interesting to see the birds move here and there, stretching self and wings sometimes before flying off for the first time.  It really did seem they were working up courage. It was interesting, when the first hawk flew off for the first time, the others watched it fly off and where it went. There was also a video of the parent feeding the little bird.  One bird seemed to get the most food; I didn't know if the parent was purposely doing that or if that is just how the video recorded it. I was quite saddened to read one of the birds died in an accident after the videos.  I got quite attached to them after watching for quite a while.  I guess that's how it goes.  But these are definitely interesting and beautiful birds.
    • Eva
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 1: A common bird around here is the Rufous-collard Sparrow, who hops around and is brave enough to enter my house, probably to look for food, although it quickly flies away when I come down. Another bird I have seen around here is the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, who comes and drinks nectar from red flowers outside of my house. It usually doesn't stay still but hovers when drinking nectar. Activity 3: I can hear Crimson-fronted Parakeets every day. Today they were very noisy when they were perched in the tree by my house. I have also heard and seen the Great Kiskadee when it flies by my house too. Here is a photo of the Crimson-fronted Parakeet. a9e1bfe5-7709-456a-9937-eecc406fe2ec
    • E halg.
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I see mockingbirds doing flagging which looks like semaphore
    • Jennifer
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: I observed some white-breasted nuthatches. There were three of them skittering up and down the tree, but they were vocalizing and fluffed. To be honest, I couldn't tell if the behavior was play or territorial. I've never seen them fluffed before, so it was fun to observe. I also got to observe some Cooper's hawk feeding behaviors and an American Goldfinch bathing. IMG_2883IMG_0402
    • Cathy
      Participant
      Chirps: 45
      Activity 3:  I took a walk in our complex, part of which borders some woods.  I heard a wide variety of bird sounds.  I am sure there are many I could not identify.  I did note sparrows singing.  In particular, I noticed how very loud just one little house sparrow can be.  He was perched on top of my garden apartment building, singing loudly. I also heard the beautiful song of the wood thrush.  I knew I had heard that beautiful song before, but after reviewing the songs for this bird I now know that sound I heard was the wood thrush. Of course, as is typical this Spring, I heard robins singing, as well as cardinals. Activity 1:  On a recent walk, I enjoyed watching 5 mockingbirds calling to each other.  I did not realize there were so many in my complex, but while focusing on them and hearing their calls, I could see at least 5.  I also noted the many blue jays in my area calling to each other.  I even noticed this activity with the sparrows.  When I was walking, I noted how when I walked in their path, when they flew away as I approached, they made a squawk sound.  I realize now this may be their way of notifying others as I took their spot on the sidewalk.  During this same walk, I saw two birds chasing and seeming to fight each other.  I didn't realize birds could fight each other so much (it almost seemed they would hurt each other), but now I realize they may have been fighting over territory. I did notice something quite interesting a few weeks back which seemed to be mobbing.  I was watching two types of birds walking around looking for food in the grass.  One was a minority (maybe a grackle if memory serves correctly) and the others were often forcing it to move.  But when another of the same type flew in, the other birds stopped hassling the first bird as much.  I found that interesting (although a little sad - as it was bullying - but that is how nature is). I look forward to watching behaviors more.
    • Leslie
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      In 2019 we had a pair of northern cardinals raising a cowbird. For a week or so I observed the parents, perhaps more the male more than the female, feeding the juvenile cowbird.  The two parents and the 'adopted' cowbird sat in a Cornelian cherry dogwood feeding seeds from our feeder to the juvenile.
    • Marcia
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity #1: We have two nests on our house at the moment, each full of baby American robins. We have a particularly good view of the one above our front porch light. The babies keep their mouths open all the time, often even when they're sleeping. The mother and father robins take turns bringing worms and removing the fecal sacs. The mother, who of course does the brooding, is used to me by now and doesn't move when I go in and out of my house. But the father is much more defensive, making a lot of noise and flapping around whenever I'm near. fullsizeoutput_2799 Activity #2: At our seed feeder, the little Black-capped Chickadees take out seed quite carefully. The Common Grackles, who are really too big to perch, have learned to swing the feeder so a little seed spills out, then they fly to the ground and eat it. What's left is cleaned up by the Mourning Doves, who walk around under the feeder.   Activity #3: I'm terrible at identifying bird vocalizations! I might be getting a tiny bit better now. I can recognize the Red-winged Blackbird by hearing it before seeing it. And I can tell the dawn chorus of the American Robin from the Northern Cardinal's sharp chirp. Still learning to identify the Black-capped Chickadee regular song (chick-a-dee-dee-dee) from its mating call (hey, sweetie!)
    • Tim
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I sat outside in my back for about an hour and half, I observe a lot of small birds; which looked to  me to be house finches, and house sparrows. The behavior was that the finch stayed on the ground eating out of the ground feed tray and the sparrow would be eat from the feeder.   I have learned a lot so far, thank you   Tim
    • Louisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Activity 2:  I watched my feeders regularly when I lived in Oregon (don’t have as good a view in Idaho due to window placement). Chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches would grab a sunflower seed and fly off to a nearby branch or tree to either hammer it open and eat it or cache it, often in bark crevices.  House finches would park themselves on a perch and gorge.  During the breeding season, the house finches would “eat” several seeds and fly to their nearby fledgling and stuff seeds into their mouths.  Evening grosbeaks would stop by during spring migration and gorge as well, but usually were present for only 7 days or less.  I threw corn kernels on the ground and groups of wood ducks would come and hoover them up, sometimes with a couple of mallards in the group as well.  There was also “disputes” between individuals as to who could have access to the corn and sex of the two disputants would vary (e.g. males would chase females and vice versa, not just males chasing males or females chasing females).  The Steller’s jays appeared to weigh each peanut as they would pick up one and drop it, pick up another and drop it, and so on until a particular nut satisfied them.  They would then either fly to a nearby branch and open and eat the nut or cache it.  Occasionally I would discover peanut plants growing in my yard, I assume from a forgotten cached nut.  I also wound up with a couple of walnut saplings, that did not survive in severe summer droughts, and a couple of hazelnut trees that produced nuts after several years.
    • Bobette
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 1 - I had a downy woodpecker nesting in a dead tree in my yard. I noticed that the male woodpecker would bring insects to the babies and then fly over to my red oak tree where I had bark butter, it would take some of the bark butter to the babies. That was the feeding cycle.
    • Hannah
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: While watching the Cornell FeederWatch Cam, I observed a Common Grackle (I believe it was a male because of the blue head?) feeding two juvenile grackles from its beak. The adult would pick up some seeds from the feeder with its beak and allow the juvenile grackle to grab them from his beak. The adult took turns feeding each of the two grackles. I have observed this behaviour in my own backyard over the past couple weeks, as well. I often see juvenile grackles following the adult grackle around with their mouths wide open, while making harsh begging calls that almost sound like quacks. Activity 2: On the Cornell FeederWatch Cam, I observed a Red-winged Blackbird, some European Starlings, and a Downy Woodpecker. The Red-winged Blackbird spent considerably less time at the feeders than the starlings. It spent about 15-20 seconds eating seeds before flying away. The starlings spent a great deal of time at the feeders, often jumping and walking around the feeders. They would take a couple mouthfuls of seed and then walk a couple steps before eating some more. The woodpecker perched itself on one of the hanging feeders, pecking at the feeder with quick, swift movements of its head. Every few seconds, the woodpecker looks around, as if keeping watch for predators. Activity 3: On the Cornell FeederWatch Cam, I heard European Starlings, the harsh “check-check-check” of the Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbirds, and the characteristic call of the Mourning Dove as it flies away. I was able to identify these bird sounds as I could also see them with my eyes. I was unable to identify any of the background noises of the birds, which will come with more practice.
    • Kathleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 2:  Watch birds at a bird feeder—your own, at a nature center, or on feeder cams (the Cornell Lab Feeder Cam or the Panama Fruit Feeder Cam). Pay close attention to how different species use slightly different techniques for eating. How much time do they spend on the feeder? Do they take one seed at a time, or multiple seeds? Share what you see in the discussion. I watched our regulars at our bird feeder, as we have many Chestnut-backed Chickadees & Oregon Juncos living in the juniper trees around our lot.  Then just days ago the House Finch came to call. Here are the results I saw: Chestnut-backed Chickadees- # of seeds=1.  Amount of time=about 1 second.  Fly away to a nearby tree, while another Chickadee flies in & repeats the steps.  It’s like they are on a fast merry-go-round! Oregon Juncos- # of seeds=3-4.  Amount of time=as much time as it takes to find 3-4 of their favorite seeds.  Fly away to a nearby tree, while another Junco flies in & repeats the steps.  It’s like they are on a slow merry-go-round! House Finch-# of seeds=as many as they can cram in their bills (males first).  Amount of time=As much time as it takes to find their favorite seeds to fill their bill.  Fly away or eat the seeds there, scaring off the other birds until they are full.
    • clara
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Actividad 1 En mi jardín vi al Pichitanka (Zonotrichia Capensis), el comportamiento que note en mi observación fue la de búsqueda de comida la cual la realiza en el suelo, ya que se alimenta de semillas el mismo tiene movimientos rápidos de picoteo pero inmediatamente mira a su alrededor para ver si hay algún peligro, otro comportamiento que observe otras ocasiones fue la de vocalización cuando nota que otro animal o persona se acerca a sus pichones revolotea por todos lados y empieza a emitir un sonido ensordecedor que muestra nerviosismo y angustia por la seguridad de sus polluelos. Actividad 2 El pájaro carpintero se alimenta en un comedero, este llega tranquilamente al lugar, camina despacio al comedero vertical y empieza a sacar varias semillas a la vez, pasa en el alimentador como dos minutos sin moverse a diferencia de otras especies que comen alguna semilla y se van para regresar un momento después para continuar comiendo. Actividad 3 Al escuchar las canciones que emitan las aves en la mañana pude reconocer al menos cuatro especies el Pichitanka (Zonotrichia Capensis), Picaflor Verde (Colibri Curuscans), Carpintero Andino (Colaptes Rupicola), Y Canastero Rojizo (Asthenes Dorbignyi)
    • Mary G
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I was hiking yesterday in a forested area of Western Massachusetts near the New York border.  I didn't see any birds, but I heard quite a few.  I recognized four of them.  And I didn't know any birdsongs a few weeks ago!  I heard the Ovenbird quite a few times.  Teacher teacher teacher!  I haven't seen one yet, and I can't wait to see one because they look so exotic in the pictures!  As we hiked up a hill we started hearing the beautiful haunting song of the Wood Thrush.  I've heard it many times in the past but not yet this year.  I wasn't sure of my identification, so when we sat down to eat lunch I checked on my phone, and I played it a few times to make sure.  The Wood Thrush had been further off but when he heard my phone he came over to investigate!  He sang at the top of his lungs for a few minutes  right nearby.  Could we see him?  No way.   The other birds I identified were a Chipping Sparrow (there's one my yard too) and a Red Eyed Vireo, which I've heard quite often on my walks.
    • Kara
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      #1: The other day I was gardening in my yard when I saw three crows join together at the top of an electric pole. They appeared to be in some sort of discussion, facing and garbling to one another. Then a blue jay's scolding call comes from a nearby tree, and then the jay joins the crows on the other side of the electric pole (i.e. from a safe distance) and "yelled" at the crows, as if making its case. The crows continued to "discuss" the situation, and after a few more scolds the blue jay flew off. I wonder if the crows had encroached on the jay's territory or taken some food! #2: At our feeder we have had a bunch of different birds that eat different ways. The sparrows eat directly from the feeder, while the cardinals try to eat from the feeder but they are too big and so eat on the ground. The mourning doves eat from the ground as well. The other birds usually leave when a blue jay arrives. The red-bellied woodpeckers hang off the feeder and peck at the seeds. I did see a white-breasted nuthatch take the seed and bang it into the trunk of the tree to open it. #3: I often hear cardinals, robins, song sparrows, blue jays, Carolina wrens, catbirds, eastern peewees, and red-bellied woodpeckers, occasionally crows, and a far-off wood thrush in the evenings. I have been hearing a full melodious song all spring and had been trying to identify the singer for months. It always sounded like it was a few houses away, so our yard must not be in its usual territory. I went on All About Birds, listening to different song recordings of our usual guests - to no avail!! Then, just this morning, right out my window, I heard the song and a little house finch was singing in an arbor vitae. I actually recorded it, because there is nothing like it among the recordings I listened to. I think it must be a regional dialect for the house finch!
    • Margaret
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      Activities 1 and 2 merged, with some other lesson-based observations. We have many House Sparrows near and in our yard, and they participate in a dawn chorus around 4:30 or 5 am (first light) in June. It is difficult to detect where in structures they are nesting.  They perch in nearby trees and dense bushes or brush. They are regulars at our feeders, eating mainly smaller seeds (not striped sunflower) and millet, many at the feeding area about the same time, though arrival is staggered and alternating. They also eat on the ground. One neighbor seems to throw out stale white bread, which the birds occasionally have in their beaks as they hop around on the ground. Sparrows also seem to be one of the local urban birds (along with starlings, blue jays and robins) that eat from our overgrown cherry tree. Multiple sparrows at our feeders seem fairly cooperative, with the sparrows either physically spacing themselves out around a flat feeder or perching in turn on the tube feeder rail. They stay longer at the flat feeder than on the tube. They are easily startled.   In colder months I’ve seen them pecking at the climbing roses branches, assuming they were taking in the moisture from morning moisture or other, but now I wonder if they were gleaning. On nearby wires when two are in proximity there is a fair amount of tail twitching.  They also seem to fluff their feathers a little bit; this is a whole-body movement not just a tail twitch. They preen.
    • julie
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Hi- I live in the foothills in Colorado. #1- I have noticed mobbing behavior of Bluejays defending their nesting territory from Robins? Its funny as I never considered Robins to be aggressive birds.  They both like the tall spruce in front of our house. We love watching the Broad tailed and Black chinned Hummingbirds come to the feeder in back when we are eating dinner. They seem to have no fear of us and like to come at sunset or dusk. They can become aggressive at defending their spot at the feeder. The females are always quieter and hardly hum. #2- House finch in pairs stay and feed leisurely at the feeder, Black capped chickadees flit in and take a few seeds then fly to a branch and crack seeds, Blue jays hang sideways take seeds then fly to branches to eat-then they rub their beaks on the branches, White breasted Nuthatches flit in- grab some feed upside down- then fly away. #3- I have learned to recognize the House Wren- a beautiful wide pitched complicated song, the Hermit Thrush when we hike in the mountains- which has a distinct flute echoey sound- I always wondered what that beautiful song belonged to! and at night the Eastern Screech Owl- which to me sounds like a squeaky Halloween gate. I am so enjoying this course and the Merlin app!
    • Barbara
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 3:  I have spent more time listening to the birds in my area (central Florida).  I have identified the more common ones: Northern Mockingbird, cardinal, Sandhill Crane.  It is interesting to know that they have different songs and calls for different activities! I appreciate the audio clips provided so that I can listen and check.  
    • Rebecca
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Hello!  Today in Roanoke, VA it has been 90+ degrees and very humid.  In the creek behind our house, we observed a great blue heron perched on a log lying across the water holding its wings out to the side and repeatedly blowing its cheeks  or skin under the beak in and out.  I have seen other birds holding their wings out to the side.  But I have never seen the mouth/beak movements.  Is this also a way for birds to cool themselves in the extreme heat?  We wondered why the heron did not seek out shade.  The heron was in the sunshine when behaving this way.  Thanks to anyone who can answer my questions.
    • Mary
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: I live on a 45 acre property that is mostly forested but has some open fields and a stream.   I have been thrilled to be able to observe some feeding behaviors up close that were discussed in this module.  For example,  I have seen a Great Horned Owl at dusk perched on a branch watching for prey and then swooping down to the ground,  pouncing up and down on the prey (mouse or vole),  grasping it in its’ talons and flying away. I have also seen a Red-shouldered Hawk catch  crawdad in our stream and sit on the railing of the footbridge that crosses the stream eating them. Another behavior I have found fascinating is mobbing.   I have observed and heard crows mobbing a Great Horned Owl on our property. Activity 3: Some of the birds I see and hear most frequently on our property are the Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren and American Goldfinch.  We also have a Northern Mockingbird that nests in a shrub near our house and it is fascinating to listen to the different bird songs the mockingbird imitates.  I have been recording other bird songs that I do not recognize and using the Merlin app to look at birds I would expect to see in my area to try to identify what birds I am hearing.
    • Kathy
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I spend quite a bit of time listening to the birds when working in my back yard or sitting on the back porch.  We  face a "green space" with a lot of trees.  I have cardinals, bluejays, doves (two kinds), house finch, Carolina wren, chickadees, cow birds (both male and female), red wing (both male and female) blackbirds, and a black chinned hummingbird (male and female).  The wren has a nest in my wood pallet planter.  The other day I saw the hummer doing a courting dance!!  The female just sat in my pink muhly grass and watched. they did this for several minutes!  It was amazing to watch!
    • Catherine
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      Yesterday I observed some interactive behaviour between a crow and a squirrel.  I have just installed a new flowergarden in my front yard: new soil, compost, plants... the works, so perhaps a really good buffet table for birds and... squirrels, of course. So yesterday one crow and one squirrel met there. It gave me the opportunity to observe how really large a crow is: larger than the squirrel! And though the animal hissed, the crow cawed: much more loudly and aggressively, and... chased the squirrel off. I had seen this type of behaviour before--on the street, but never this closely or this long. Yesterday (what a day!) I also "saw" a hummingbird. As I live on the Island of Montreal, I assume it is the ruby-throated, which I think is the only one in this area. I put "saw" because it zoomed past my window, and I heard it more than I saw it. I do hope to really see one on my flowers, and not dazed on my deck after a collision with my large windows.... Catherine
    • Brad
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      muteswansI've been fascinated by the apparently aggressive behavior of the Mute Swans in our area.  I never knew such beautifuk birds could be so 'meanacing'.  I've notices the 8 cygnets have whittled down to only 4.  Also in this area the swans coms towards humans, and I am guessing that is looking for food as many visitors must bring food for the birds.