Photo © Keith Williams

January 2021 News

Great Backyard Bird Count Coming Soon

Winter got you down? It’s that time of year—time to take stock of the birds in your yard or neighborhood. The Great Backyard Bird Count is just around the corner. Take a 15-minute birding break (or several!) anytime from February 12-15 and share your results with the world. How many birds will you see? 

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an inter-organizational effort among the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Birds Canada. Whether you count one bird or hundreds, participating is easy and fun for all ages! Learn how to participate.

Bulk Uploads Keep January Bustling

We were able to bulk upload 1,199 nest records from 3 contributors this month. Even in January, there is plenty to keep us busy! Our esteemed contributors represent diverse regions and species:

  • Loyd Marshall contributed 159 Prothonotary Warbler nests from 10 years of monitoring in the Mosquito Creek Lake area of Ohio. This species is in decline, and the installation of nest boxes with predator guards in forested wetlands has been successful at increasing local populations.
  • Laura Claggett facilitated the uploading of 897 nest records on behalf of the Bella Vista Bluebird Society in Arkansas. All records were from 2020, a very large single-year import indeed!
  • Conor Taff and Maren Vitousek contributed 143 Tree Swallow nest records from Tompkins County, New York, adding to their now 35-year dataset. This astonishing long-term record is invaluable for its historical look at Tree Swallow nesting biology.

Eastern Bluebird Nestling Growth Chart

There are several reasons you might want to know the age of nestlings in a particular nest box. For example, you would want to avoid opening a box with nestlings that are close to fledging age. The North American Bluebird Society has created a handy reference to help nest box monitors judge the age of Eastern Bluebird nestlings. Download the free reference guide here, and keep an eye out for an upcoming guide for Western Bluebirds.

Test your skill: Using the growth chart, see if you can identify the age of the nestlings in the above photo. Check your answer by clicking on the photographer’s name.

Nest Parasites and Purple Martins

In this month’s blog post, we share some new research concerning Purple Martins and parasite-reduction tactics. In a study led by Dr. Heather Williams, researchers found that while Purple Martins do indeed harbor high levels of ectoparasites in their nest material, a strategy of replacing nest material with clean plant matter did not improve nestling condition or survival. In fact, it may have increased stress among nestlings due to being handled.

The article also underscores how readily parasites can recolonize a nest, stating that mite populations rebounded within a week. Ectoparasites are often among the top concerns of people who monitor birds’ nests, but the researchers behind this new study found that Purple Martins can cope with the parasites and did not need human intervention.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cornell Lab of Ornithology