Week 2: Bird Nests & Babies

Backyard Explorers Week 2: Birds Nests & Babies

Learn: Finding Bird Nests

Summer is the time that birds make nests and hatch their eggs. All around you, hiding in trees, bushes, and even the eaves of buildings, birds are raising babies! If you watch closely, you might be able to figure out where their nest is and even see some babies come out of the nest. Keep an eye out for these clues:

Clue #1: Male birds singing loudly

Male birds sing loudly at the edges of their territory. If you hear a bird singing again and again near your house, it probably means he and his mate have made a nest nearby. Watch where he flies between songs — and even make a map — to get important clues to where is nest is.
(Image by Motorrad67)

Clue #2: Birds flying with grass, plants, or bugs in their mouths

Have you ever seen a bird fly with a mouth full of grass or a dangly worm? This usually means they are making a nest or feeding babies. Birds find grass, twigs, moss, feathers, and even bits of plastic and string to use to weave their nest. Observe that bird and follow where they carry their goodies. This will tell you where their nest is!
(Image by Charles J Sharp)

Clue #3: Birds with short tails and yellow beaks

If you spy birds with fuzzy heads and short tails, in groups of three or more, you’ve probably found some bird babies who have just left the. nest, also called fledgelings. Their tail feathers are still growing in, and sometimes you’ll notice yellow at the corners of their beaks. These little peeps are fun to watch – they will be hanging out close to their parents, learning to fly, feed, and sing!
(Image by ZankaM)

Do a Craft: Make Your Field Journal

A field journal is a little notebook scientists take with them when they go out into nature to observe plants and animals. They take notes and draw pictures in their journal. They might describe what they see, draw a sketch of an animal, or make a map of animals’ and plants’ locations.

In your packets you’ll find two cardboard covers, several white pages, and two brass brads. Put the papers between the covers and hold them together with the brads. Then write “Field Journal” on the front, along with your name. This sturdy little notebook can go with you into the backyard when you go exploring!

Thanks to Teaching Science with Lynda for the photos

Backyard Discovery: Make a Nest Map

How can you find a bird nest? By observing where birds sing and where they fly. Scientists do this by making territory maps, and your field journal is the perfect place for one of these!

Image by Omaksimenko

Step 1: Pick a bird to watch

One bird that is still actively nesting in the Finger Lakes in this American Goldfinch. Listen and learn about American Goldfinches here. Have you seen one of these bright yellow birds in your yard or at your birdfeeder? Spend a little time early in the morning in your backyard and see if you can spot them flitting about! (If you’re having trouble, consider hanging a milkjug birdfeeder with some sunflower seeds in it. Goldfinches love them!)

Step 2: Map the movements of your chosen bird in your field journal

First, make a map of your backyard in your field journal. Look at the one I made below. I included all the buildings, trees, and bushes I could see.

Next, for a few mornings, spend 10 minutes patiently watching the bird you chose. I know this can be hard, but you can do it! Every time you see your bird, make an x on your map to mark its location. Maybe make a note of what it’s doing: singing, carrying a worm, or something else.

Pretty soon you’ll be able see a pattern of where it flies to and from, and you might even be able to guess where its nest is. Be patient! This can take a little time. As you can see on my map, I drew a circle around where I thought the nest might be and big question mark (?) in the middle.

Step 3: Go nest hunting

Once you have a hunch for where your bird’s nest might be, go hunting for it! Remember to be extra quiet and listen as you get closer- often parent birds will squawk and chirp loudly if you are getting close. They are trying to scare you away, but in doing so, are giving you a great clue. Take a picture of a nest if you find one and send it to me!

Miss Jackie’s backyard nest map

Listen to Counting Birds: The Idea that Helped Save our Feathered Friends by by Heidi Stemple

Listen to a musical version of Have You Heard a Nesting Bird by Rita Gray

Color these common Eastern birds

Click the images to print the coloring pages, and use the link below each to learn about the bird and the colors of its feathers.

Print this coloring page
Learn more about the Black-capped Chickadee
Print this coloring page
Learn more about the American Robin
Print this coloring page
Learn more about the Northern Cardinal

For Parents and Caregivers: Learn More

How to find nests from Project Nestwatch