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Photo © Keith Williams
Photo © Lori June

Our Advice and Guidelines for NestWatching During COVID-19

First, I hope this message finds you well and safe. Our entire staff truly values this NestWatch community and wants to emphasize the importance of staying healthy during this pandemic. To that end, we want to address some questions you might have about NestWatching during this time.

  1. NestWatch is still accepting data. But we understand that some public places where you watch birds and maintain nest boxes may be closed or too far from home to access this year. We also recognize that many of you are facing uncertainty and challenges that affect your desire to participate this year. Rest assured that NestWatch will be here when you’re ready (and it’s safe) to return to this hobby.
  2. Please follow the recommendations of your state officials regarding staying at home, limiting non-essential travel, and social distancing. If you have access to outdoor space near home and you want to participate, we welcome your data.
  3. As always, practice good hygiene when checking nests (wash hands thoroughly before and after visiting nests and handling equipment; wear a mask when cleaning out nest boxes to avoid breathing in dust, viruses, and bacteria). Birds’ nests do contain germs and, typically, some amount of feces, so this is a good practice for everyone to observe. But don’t worry—people can’t get COVID-19 from birds or give it to birds.
  4. If you can’t be outside, consider joining our online-only project called Nest Quest Go! This project consists of transcribing historical nest record cards into data that can be uploaded into NestWatch and made available to scientists. These nest cards offer a glimpse back in time and represent priceless data for scientists about years gone by.

Your safety is our top priority. You don’t need to tell us if you’re taking a break; we know things are uncertain right now, and we’re already planning how to handle a temporary decrease in submissions. But if you and your family have the ability and enjoy monitoring nests, just know that we’re here for you to answer your questions and support your participation. Email us at with any questions.

With best wishes for you and your loved ones,

Robyn Bailey
NestWatch Project Leader

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cornell Lab of Ornithology