Photo © Keith Williams

December 2012 News

Resolve to Finish Strong

You’ve trekked through forests, fields, and swamps collecting nesting data this year. You’ve witnessed new life emerging from delicate eggs, and watched as those shivering wet chicks became fully-feathered flying dynamos. You’ve broken records for five of NestWatch’s focal species and set all-time highs for data submission. NestWatchers have engaged the youth and families in their local communities and grown our participant base by the hundreds. Together, we’ve raised thousands of dollars in support of citizen science training and launched a new and improved website. By anyone’s measure, it has been an outstanding year for NestWatchers.

But don’t stop now. Let’s finish strong, NestWatchers. If you still have data from this year that you need to enter, please try to submit it to by December 31, 2012. You still have two weeks to meet this goal, but the New Year will be here before you know it. We will still accept data beyond this deadline, but the sooner you submit your records, the sooner they start counting toward our year-end totals. NestWatch staff will be on hand to help you enter data until December 21, after which we’re closed until January 2, 2013. Help us understand what patterns emerged in 2012. We get requests from researchers for data almost every month, so make your data count by entering your observations online today, at

Ohio Young Birders Club and the Prothonotary Warbler Nest Box Service Project

By Kimberly Kaufman and Darlene Sillick

Under the guidance of one of Ohio’s leading bird conservationists, Darlene Sillick, student members of the Ohio Young Birders Club (OYBC) conducted a service project to install Prothonotary Warbler nest boxes at the Hoover Nature Preserve (HNP) near Columbus, Ohio. The Prothonotary Warbler Nest Box Project was the result of the commitment of the OYBC’s Central Ohio Chapter to doing more service projects. They learned that a severe wind storm in late June caused significant wind damage to the trees supporting up to 50 Prothonotary Warbler nest boxes at Hoover Nature Preserve. They discussed what they could do to help and decided to get involved by raising funds to buy wood and supplies to build boxes, and then installing the boxes. In early October, the OYBC Central Ohio Chapter built 40 boxes. They suggested that participants at the annual Ohio Young Birders Conference could complete the remaining boxes. They also felt participating in this project would help educate people about the plight of this lovely warbler. The students wanted to make sure these beautiful birds find a place to call home when they return in April 2013.

On Saturday, November, 3, 2012, Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm in Dayton, Ohio, hosted the Sixth Annual Ohio Young Birders Conference. A crowd of nearly 140 people were treated to 11 outstanding student presentations. Topics included camps and career opportunities for young birders, the value of citizen science, and why bird conservation matters. The keynote speaker was Benjamin Van Doren, a freshman at Cornell University. In addition to the presentations, conference attendees also built the remaining 40 Prothonotary Warbler nest boxes for the project. On November 11, OYBC student members and adult volunteers installed dozens of the new boxes at Hoover Nature Preserve. Dedicated volunteer Charlie Bombaci, whose many years of service have made Hoover Nature Preserve a model of success for the Prothonotary Warblers, reports being thrilled that the young birders have decided to take on this project and “pay it forward” for the good of the species.

The Ohio Young Birders Club was founded in 2006 by Black Swamp Bird Observatory. For more information, visit the OYBC website at For more information about the Central Ohio Chapter, visit Columbus Audubon Society at

A Bad Habit for Birds?

Recent research suggests that urban birds might incorporate cigarette butts into their nests as a means of repelling insects and parasites. Nicotine is the tobacco plant’s natural defense against herbivores, but research suggests that birds might be using this defense mechanism to their advantage.

The study, summarized here by Scientific American, demonstrated that House Sparrow and House Finch nests containing filters from smoked cigarettes had fewer parasites than those without. However, the study does not address whether the chemicals in the filters also negatively affected the health of the chicks in the nest. Without this key piece of information, it’s difficult to know whether including cigarette filters in a nest provides a net advantage to urban birds. Although discarded cigarettes are not on our list of recommended nesting materials to provide for birds, it is interesting to consider that some birds might be deliberately feathering their nests with the unsavory litter.

Monthly Winner

At the beginning of each month, NestWatch randomly selects one participant who has entered data that month to receive a copy of the NestWatch Common Nesting Birds of North America poster. This month’s lucky winner is Vera Vollbrecht. Congratulations, Vera!

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cornell Lab of Ornithology