As part of our Bird Atlas project, Spring sent over this list of tips on how to confirm that birds are breeding. It’s pretty interesting to slow down and watch birds and connect with what they’re up to. Nature can be pretty wild 😉
She found these tips in the San Diego Bird Atlas:
• The first thing to focus on when you see a bird is the bill. Is the bird carrying nesting material or insects? For the majority of species, carrying nesting material or food for young is behavior confirming breeding. Watch the bird for a minute or two to see whether it’s carrying the prey back to a perch to be killed and eaten by the adult itself. If the bird carries the prey any distance or is accumulating insects in its bill, it’s likely the food is destined for young.
• Find a likely spot with a few birds flitting around, sit silently for 5 or 10 minutes, and see what pops up—often quite a lot. Hurried hiking and crashing through brush will generate almost nothing. Once you spot a bird, stay with it for a moment to see what it does.
• Seemingly odd behavior may be a clue to something interesting. For example, swallows don’t normally land on the ground except to pick up nesting material (grass for nest-lining in the case of Rough-winged Swallows as well as mud for Cliff Swallows).
• Listen for unfamiliar calls—especially if they sound like those of baby birds. Even if you don’t see the young, the adults usually give themselves away with alarm calls or distraction behavior. The calls of fledglings are just as distinctive to species as those of adults and can be learned with practice. If you do discover a nest, don’t linger too long – so not to stress out the birds or attract predators.
• Spread your effort throughout the day. In the first hour or two after dawn the adults are often too preoccupied with feeding themselves and advertising their territories to engage in much breeding-related behavior. Later in the day may present good opportunities to see behaviors such as nest-building and feeding of young.
If you or someone you know owns any land in Loudoun County that can be made accessible to atlasers please let Spring know: firstname.lastname@example.org