Volunteers have been helping the Lab monitor nesting birds for 50 years, keeping tabs on open-cup nests and nest boxes alike. What started as the North American Nest Record Card Program in 1965, and later became The Birdhouse Network, is now known as NestWatch. But the goal of these projects hasn’t changed: collect quality data on nesting success across the country for use in “big picture” studies of bird reproduction.
Our nest-monitoring data have been used in more than 130 scientific studies, yielding valuable information for scientists and land managers, such as:
- When, where, and how many eggs are laid by certain species across a wide range
- How to minimize the effects of forestry and agricultural practices on nesting birds
- Revealing that some species, such as Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds, are nesting earlier as spring temperatures have risen.
Even after five decades, there’s still a lot learn. For example, data on the Eurasian Collared-Dove, a relative newcomer to North America, remain sketchy. We still don’t know how its presence affects our native Mourning Doves, or even how many times they can nest in one year. NestWatch needs more data to understand how and why species respond differently to large, continent-level changes in the environment.
To encourage everyone to commit to monitoring at least one nest this year, and to celebrate 50 years of volunteer nest monitoring, we’ll be giving away prizes to three lucky participants for (1) most nest attempts submitted, (2) most species monitored, and (3) a random winner with at least one nest attempt. We will draw winners in late November, and prizes (TBD) will ship in time for the holidays. It’s our way of saying “Thank you” and kicking off a great 50th year.
Spring is here, and with it, a flurry of nest-building activity. Birds will soon be inspecting nesting sites, collecting materials, and constructing the perfect nest. But did you know that for some species, the nest is totally unnecessary? Some birds get to skip all the hard work of construction and go straight to the egg-laying and incubation. Meet a few of these nestless species in our Citizen Science Blog.
Some birds nest in cavities, and others prefer an open-cup nest. Even species that are closely related may have different strategies. But why? What makes some species nest one way and some species nest another? Read about the research of two Cornell doctoral students as they delve into the evolutionary history of the old world flycatchers to find an answer, and explore their data with interactive graphs.
Have you ever seen a Wood Duck hen tending a brood of mixed species of ducklings? Why would she take care of other species’ young? NestWatch shared with Northern Woodlands magazine some of the science behind those mixed-up duckling broods. Read the article online, and put up a Wood Duck nest box to observe these fascinating ducks up close.
If NestWatch has been useful to you personally in the last year, please consider making a small donation to help keep the project going. If everyone reading this newsletter gave just $1, we could stop fundraising for the year and use the extra time for doing science. Thank you for helping us grow by making a donation to NestWatch today.