Skip to content

It’s time to monitor nests!

April 22, 2011

Now that the nesting season is upon us, it is a great time to explore ways to make your neighborhood more inviting for nesting birds. Providing nest boxes is a fabulous way to help birds, and they provide an easy method for monitoring nesting behavior and contributing to science through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch project. NestWatch teaches people about bird breeding biology and engages them in collecting and submitting nesting records. Such records include information about nest site location, habitat, species, and number of eggs, young, and fledglings. You can submit your nest observations to the NestWatch database and become part of a continent-wide effort to better understand and manage the impacts of environmental change on bird populations.

Tree Swallows in nest box. Photo by J. Morgan.

Think Outside The Box

Of the nearly 95,000 nesting attempts in the NestWatch database, 97% are from birds using nest boxes.  But NestWatch is interested in collecting data from other nests, too.  Many of the NestWatch focal species do not use boxes and you don’t have to go far to find them.  Several species of birds nest in trees and shrubs in suburban yards, and possibly even on your front porch. Many of these common species are underrepresented in the NestWatch database.  For example, the database only includes 72 Northern Cardinal nests, 48 Northern Mockingbird nests, and 4 American Goldfinch nests!  So, while you’re enjoying the outdoors this spring and summer, please take a moment to look around for any bird nests and report on the nesting success of the robins, phoebes, finches, and other birds you see.

Northern Cardinal nest.

NestWatch is a free citizen science project and everyone is encouraged to take part. If you do monitor nests, please be sure to follow the nest monitoring code of conduct. For nest box building tips, read about the characteristics of a good nest box or download free nest box construction plans. To contribute your observations, visit the NestWatch web site in the United States or Canada.

  1. Tim permalink
    April 27, 2011 7:13 am

    I’m really curious about the plate surrounding the opening in the birdhouse. Is that made for the purpose, or diverted from some other purpose? Where can I get some?

    • April 27, 2011 9:13 am

      The small metal plate around the nest box opening is designed to prevent potential predators, like squirrels, from enlarging the hole and gaining access to the nest. I’m not aware of anyone selling these, but the barrier can be made out of metal flashing by drilling a hole of the appropriate size. Just be sure to sand down any sharp edges so that the birds will not be harmed.

      • Andrew Winner permalink
        April 29, 2011 10:22 pm

        The Bird Watcher’s General Store in Orlean, MA (on Cape Cod) sells them in various sizes. The store has an online store. It is also a wonderful place to visit if you are in the neighborhood. Website:

  2. Margaret Holm permalink
    June 27, 2011 9:36 am

    I have a red winged black bird nest in some bushes right outside my front door. I discovered it after being attacked twice walking past it on my sidewalk. What should I do to ensure they don’t return next spring? I have grandsons who come to visit from California in the summer and I don’t want to run the risk of one of them getting attacked.

    Thank you.

  3. Pen and Ink permalink
    June 29, 2011 7:12 am

    Margaret, there’s a lot missing from your comment before we can help with your blackbird problem. I’m guessing that blackbird nest is either on the ground or within the hidden block of the bush, so I would start with looking at those bushes. I don’t think you need to remove them, but some aggressive thinning around the bottoms might be the answer where you can see through the bottoms of them, leaving the dense leaf cover in the upper half.


  1. Fledgling birds generally don’t need a helping hand « Project FeederWatch Blog

Comments are closed.