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FAQ: Facebook Fundraisers

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 12:43

How do I set up my own Facebook fundraiser to support the Cornell Lab?

Please see these step-by-step instructions. Thank you for your support!

Are donations made on Facebook tax-deductible?

Donations made through Facebook to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are tax-deductible, though tax laws vary by state and by country. You should consult a tax professional or review the laws for your area to determine whether a donation is tax-deductible.

If I create a Facebook Fundraiser will my donors get a tax receipt?

Once a donor makes a donation, a confirmation will be sent to their primary email listed on their Facebook account. This confirmation shows that they’ve made the donation as a charitable contribution and that they’re not receiving any goods or services in return.

What percentage does Facebook take from fundraisers?

None! 100% of the donations that you raise for the Cornell Lab—even if you don’t reach your goal—will go directly to our organization. Donations made on Facebook to charitable organizations using the Facebook payments platform aren’t charged fees.

Will the Cornell Lab of Ornithology receive my information or the information of those who contribute to my fundraiser?

When you set up a Facebook Fundraiser, your name and the amount of money raised will be shared with us. You—and any contributor to your fundraiser—will also have the option to share your email with us to receive updates.

Will my friends’ donation amounts be shared on Facebook?

When your friends donate to your fundraiser, the charitable organization to which they are donating (the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) and the creator of the fundraiser (you) will be able to see donations. However, the amount they donate will never be shared on Facebook.

If someone donates through a fundraiser, will they become a member of the Lab?

Due to Facebook’s information-sharing restrictions, we are currently unable to offer Lab memberships to those who donate via its fundraising tools. If you or contributors to your fundraiser would like to learn more about the benefits associated with being a Lab member, we encourage donors to share their email address when making a donation so we can provide those details!

Visit Facebook for more answers to your FAQs. Please feel free to contact us directly at 866-989-BIRD for questions about setting up a fundraiser for the Cornell Lab.

A Galaxy of Falcons [video]

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 19:30
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Each autumn, more than a million Amur Falcons congregate in India’s remote northeast state of Nagaland, pausing on a 9,000-mile migration from Asia to southern Africa. Until 2012, no one in the outside world knew this great gathering existed—or that the local villagers were killing hundreds of thousands of the birds for food. What happened next was one of the most remarkable conservation success stories in recent years, but also poses thorny questions about what happens when a poor community does the right but difficult thing. Join author and researcher Scott Weidensaul as he discusses his 2017 expedition to Nagaland, and the future of this galaxy of falcons.

The talk took place on November 5, 2018. It is part of the Cornell Lab’s long-running Monday Night Seminar series, a tradition established decades ago by Lab founder Dr. Arthur Allen. If you enjoyed this seminar, check this page for our list of future speakers—we’ll note which upcoming talks will be livestreamed—or come visit us in person!

See our index of archived livestreamed seminars to enjoy more talks from the Cornell Lab.

This Could Be the Winter You Get Evening Grosbeaks at Your Feeder

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 16:05
Evening Grosbeaks at a feeder in Quebec, Canada. Photo by Josée Rousseau/Macaulay Library.

At the end of September, three birders in Cape May, New Jersey, got a preview of what’s shaping up to be one of this winter’s birding highlights. It took the form of 1,570 Red-breasted Nuthatches flying past the group during a single day—the highest single count for the little cinnamon-and-gray acrobats ever reported to eBird.

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“I think we’re in store for our best widespread multi-finch invasion in several years” in eastern North America, says Matt Young, a finch expert and the collections management leader at the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library. (Young knows nuthatches aren’t finches, but says their movement patterns are so similar that he considers them “honorary finches.”)

“We’re already seeing Pine Siskins in a few spots along the Gulf Coast, and Red-breasted Nuthatches all the way into Florida,” he says. That’s well south of these two species’ typical ranges. Elsewhere, a birder in Long Island counted nearly 2,700 Pine Siskins and more than 2,200 Purple Finches on the move in a single morning in late October.

This is one of the more than 1,500 Red-breasted Nuthatches that flew past Cape May, New Jersey, on a day in late September. Photo by Doug Gochfeld/Macualay Library.

Following in the wake of these waves of early migrants could come Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks, Bohemian Waxwings, and possibly even Pine Grosbeaks, according to Ontario-based ornithologist Ron Pittaway. For the last two decades, Pittaway has painstakingly compiled notes on crops of conifer seeds and berry-producing trees from around the boreal forest to produce a “winter finch forecast.” By surveying the food supplies in these birds’ normal winter range, he can detect years when food crops in eastern Canada fail (like this year) causing those northerly denizens to flood into forests farther south in a movement known as an irruption. Read Pittaway’s 2018-2019 Winter Finch Forecast. (Pittaway’s forecasts don’t apply to western North America, where many finch species have regular breeding and wintering populations.)

Next Up: Evening Grosbeaks This eBird sightings map shows Evening Grosbeaks moving well south of their typical winter range during fall 2018. Red pins are sightings from October and early November, indicating recent arrivals. Finch forecasters expect the movements to continue and extend farther south as winter arrives. See the latest eBird map.

Siskins, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Purple Finches are among the earliest movers of the winter, according to Young. He says that pulses of these species often show in early fall or even late summer—with more southerly breeding ranges, they don’t have as far to travel. But Young is also picking up signals from birds that breed farther north, and that normally don’t show up until late fall. For example, he says early eBird observations are hinting at the largest movement of Evening Grosbeaks in the Northeast in more than a decade.

“Evening Grosbeaks have a fascinating history,” says Young. “From the 1960s through much of the 1990s, they were one of the most common species seen at bird feeders across much of eastern North America in the winter. But in the past two-plus decades they’ve shown up less often and in fewer numbers. They are even listed as a species of special concern in Canada.”

As of the end of October, Evening Grosbeaks have already shown up in many spots in New York and southern New England, with a smattering of reports from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and even Maryland. Young says the Carolinas or even Georgia could see one this year. Reports of the striking birds—males sporting the colors of summer sunflowers highlighted by a bold golden eyebrow, females a dusky gray with tinges of gold—have been lighting up online discussion groups of late, as birders in the East are eager catch a glimpse.

Pine Grosbeaks and Common Redpolls at our live Ontario FeederWatch cam in the winter of 2018. Screenshot by marijke20 via Cornell Lab Bird Cams.

Common Redpolls are on their way too, in their biggest numbers since the “superflight” winter of 2012–13. Young says this could be one of the rare years where they travel as far south as the Carolinas. And as far south as Pennsylvania and southern New England, birders might even see a few Pine Grosbeaks—generally the rarest winter finch to reach the U.S. That sort of movement hasn’t happened since at least 2007-08 in the Northeast.

One species that Young doesn’t expect to make much of an appearance are crossbills. Last year, Red Crossbills in particular came south into coniferous forests in the Northeast, but he and Pittaway say good cone crops across Canada and the western U.S this year will keep many of them within their typical range.

How to Get Winter Finches Into Your Backyard More on Winter Bird Feeding

Perhaps the best news is that it’s quite possible this year’s finch irruption could play out in your backyard (particularly if you live in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic). Finches and Evening Grosbeaks flock to black-oil sunflower seeds. To attract grosbeaks, go big: while these large birds may be able to squeeze onto a tube feeder, you’ll have better results offering the seeds on a platform feeder. Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins also take sunflower seeds, but they frequent nyjer feeders too. These smaller species will feed from a variety of feeder types. Red-breasted Nuthatches are even more versatile, comfortable plucking a seed out of a hopper or hanging upside-down to work on a suet block.

If you’re lucky enough to have Pine Grosbeaks visit your area, you may need to get out of your backyard to see them. These birds are regulars at the platform feeder on our live Ontario FeederWatch Cam—but farther south, according to Young, they don’t often visit feeders. Instead, look for them in residential areas with fruiting trees such as mountain-ash and crabapple (which are also good places to try for Bohemian Waxwings), and in forests with spruce trees, where they feed on the buds.

While you’re at it, why not join Project FeederWatch and keep track of visits from your winter birds? The data you record will help scientists keep track of bird populations, and most people find they start to notice more at their feeders than they ever did before.

How to Create Your Own Facebook Fundraiser to Help the Cornell Lab

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 10:27
Piping Plover and chick by B.N. Singh via Birdshare.

If you’re looking for a way to help the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and spread awareness of our work among your friends, here’s a great way to do it: Facebook.

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You can now create your own Facebook Fundraiser on behalf of organizations like the Cornell Lab. The benefits of doing this are far-reaching: you can inspire your friends to support us while also increasing their awareness of our work. Your friends are also encouraged to share with their Facebook communities, which means you may receive gifts from people you don’t even know who connect with your story!

Facebook makes raising funds easy, fun, and secure. As a fundraiser, you can set donation goals and track your progress. It’s also safe: donors can enter their payment information securely and easily through Facebook.

Have a birthday coming up? Celebrating a milestone? Want to mark a meaningful occasion like, say, International Migratory Bird Day or Rachel Carson’s birthday? Whatever the reason, Facebook Fundraisers are a great way to raise funds for the Cornell Lab—and we deeply appreciate your help in spreading the word.

Learn how in 5 simple steps

(Tip: It’s possible to set up a fundraiser on your phone, but you may find it easier on a tablet or laptop as you’ll be doing a little bit of typing):

Step 1: Select the “Fundraisers” option. Step 1. Go To Your Newsfeed

Desktop users: Go to your Facebook newsfeed and select the “Fundraisers” option on the left toolbar under explore. You may have to hit “see more” for the fundraisers option to appear.

Mobile users: Open up Facebook and tap the three vertical lines either on the bottom or top right-hand side of your screen (locations vary among devices). Select “fundraisers” in the options that appear. You may have to hit “see more” for the fundraisers option to appear.

Step 2: Choose Raise money > Nonprofit > Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Step 2. Tell Your Story

Desktop and mobile users: The Facebook Fundraiser main page will appear. Hit “Raise money” and select the option for Nonprofit. You will be prompted to search for a nonprofit to support. Type in Cornell Lab of Ornithology and select our organization. A form will appear once you have selected our Facebook page. Fill in the form with your goal amount and the additional fields that appear. You will also be asked to tell your story about why you are connected to the Cornell Lab. This will be the story that appears when you are sharing with your network, so make sure to personalize your message!

Step 3: Choose a photo to pair with your fundraiser. Step 3: Add A Cover Photo

Desktop and mobile users: Next, pick the cover photo that you want to be paired with your fundraiser page. By clicking the edit icon on the suggested photo you have the ability to select or upload alternate photos. If you choose to select a new photo, scroll through the image options and select the one you want.

Step 4: Publish and share your fundraiser. Step 4: Publish Your Fundraiser

Desktop and mobile users: Click “Create” and your Facebook Fundraiser for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will be published. Now you can share your personalized fundraiser with your social network in honor of your connection to our cause.

Step 5: Reach Your Goal

Lastly, don’t be shy! Post your fundraiser to your timeline a few times before your end date approaches. You can follow up by opening your fundraiser page and clicking the share button.

Here are some ideas for following up with your friends:

  • Reposting about the progress made towards your goal so far. If you are 50% towards your goal, thank those that donated and ask the rest of your network to help you raise the remaining amount.
  • Sharing again on the final day of your fundraiser to promote urgency. You can say something along the lines of “This is the last day to donate, please help me meet my goal!”

Thank you for your interest in raising awareness and donations for the Cornell Lab. We love having you as part of our community!

If you have any questions please contact 866-989-BIRD for assistance. In the meantime, here’s a list of frequently asked questions — and some helpful answers about Facebook Fundraisers:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are donations made on Facebook tax-deductible?

Donations made through Facebook to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are tax-deductible, though tax laws vary by state and by country. You should consult a tax professional or review the laws for your area to determine whether a donation is tax-deductible.

If I create a Facebook Fundraiser will my donors get a tax receipt?

Once a donor makes a donation, a confirmation will be sent to their primary email listed on their Facebook account. This confirmation shows that they’ve made the donation as a charitable contribution and that they’re not receiving any goods or services in return.

What percentage does Facebook take from fundraisers?

None! 100% of the donations that you raise for the Cornell Lab—even if you don’t reach your goal—will go directly to our organization. Donations made on Facebook to charitable organizations using the Facebook payments platform aren’t charged fees.

Will the Cornell Lab of Ornithology receive my information or the information of those who contribute to my fundraiser?

When you set up a Facebook Fundraiser, your name and the amount of money raised will be shared with us. You—and any contributor to your fundraiser—will also have the option to share your email with us to receive updates.

Will my friends’ donation amounts be shared on Facebook?

When your friends donate to your fundraiser, the charitable organization to which they are donating (the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) and the creator of the fundraiser (you) will be able to see donations. However, the amount they donate will never be shared on Facebook.

If someone donates through a fundraiser, will they become a member of the Lab?

Due to Facebook’s information-sharing restrictions, we are currently unable to offer Lab memberships to those who donate via its fundraising tools. If you or contributors to your fundraiser would like to learn more about the benefits associated with being a Lab member, we encourage donors to share their email address when making a donation so we can provide those details!

Visit Facebook for more answers to your FAQs.

Help Us Track Sick Birds With Project FeederWatch

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 15:04

House Finches may be found at feeders across much of North America, and if you see these little birds, we’d like to know about it. Specifically, our scientists want to know if the birds you see appear healthy or if they have redness and swelling around the eyes—signs of a bacterial disease (Mycoplasma gallisepticum) that first appeared in 1994 and is now found in House Finch populations from coast to coast.

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This special push to track both sick and healthy House Finches is being carried out through the Cornell Lab’s Project FeederWatch, an annual winter survey of feeder birds that runs from November through April. New participants are invited to sign up to help on the Project FeederWatch website. Making the correct ID is important, so there’s additional help provided in distinguishing among similar species, such as the Purple Finch, House Finch, and Cassin’s Finch.

“House finches are providing a unique window into disease dynamics,” says Wesley Hochachka, Assistant Director of Bird Populations Studies at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “We want to understand how this disease is spreading, if cases are more or less severe than they used to be, and how the birds’ immune systems are adapting to fight this threat.” Though this disease does not affect people, understanding how it’s transmitted provides insight into how human diseases are spread.

House Finch eye disease first appeared in the eastern United States and arrived in parts of the West in 2003. There is evidence suggesting that western bacteria could cause more severe disease now than in the past.

The eyes of this female House Finch are swollen by disease. Photo by Dan Fleming.

“Collecting reports from western states is especially important because the disease is still spreading there,” says FeederWatch project leader Emma Greig. “We hope to encourage participation in states such as Utah, Colorado, and Nevada, because the data they provide are extremely valuable.”

Learn more about FeederWatch and sign up online or call the Cornell Lab toll-free at (866) 989-2473. In return for a small fee, participants receive the FeederWatcher Handbook and Instructions with tips on how to attract birds to your feeders, an identification poster of common feeder birds, and a calendar. Participants also receive Winter Bird Highlights, an annual summary of FeederWatch findings.

Project FeederWatch is a joint research and education project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.
More About House finch Eye Disease

Join Project FeederWatch

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 14:20

© Craig Hurst
Instruction summary
Important Dates
Your Research Kit
Why is There a Fee?
Signup to receive your kit! Join Now!



Please refer to our Handbook & Instructions, mailed to all new participants, before submitting any data. Detailed instructions can also be found here.

Sign up – If you have not yet signed up, join today! During the season, it takes a few weeks from when you sign up for your kit to arrive with your ID number and for your ID number to be activated in Your Data.
Select your count site – Choose a portion of your yard that is easy to monitor, typically an area with feeders that is visible from one vantage point.
Choose your count days – Select two consecutive days as often as once a week (less often is fine). Leave at least five days when you do not count between each of your two-day counts.
How to count – Watch your feeders as much or a little as you want over your selected count days. Record the maximum number of each species visible at any one time during your two-day count. Keep one tally across both days. Do not add your counts together!
What to count – Please count
all of the individuals of each species in view at any one time
birds attracted to food or water you provided
birds attracted to fruits or ornamental plantings
hawks and other predatory birds that are attracted by the birds at your feeders
But do not count

birds that simply fly over the count site, such as Canada Geese or Sandhill Cranes.
birds seen on non-count days
Report your counts – Submit counts through the Your Data section of our website.

FeederWatch participants often stop counting their birds because they believe that their counts are not important. Typically they are seeing the same birds every week, or they are seeing very few or no birds. While some FeederWatchers see amazing birds, a wide variety of species, or large numbers of birds, most FeederWatchers see low numbers of what might be characterized as “predictable” birds. These counts are the heart of FeederWatch. Focusing on the extreme cases would provide a biased view of bird populations, and ignoring the common birds could be a major mistake. While we are all thrilled by unusual sightings and high counts, it’s the everyday observations of common birds that are so important for monitoring bird populations. Learn more about why every count matters.

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The 2016-2017 FeederWatch season runs from Saturday, November 12 to Friday, April 7. Online data entry will open for new participants on November 1. The last day to start a two-day count is Thursday, April 6.

The project always starts on the second Saturday of November and runs for 21 weeks.

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All new Project FeederWatch participants receive a research kit in the mail. Renewing participants can choose not to receive a kit.


Welcome Letter
FeederWatch Handbook & Instructions, with bird feeding information and complete project instructions
Full-color poster of common feeder birds with paintings by noted bird artist, Larry McQueen (see pdf of mini version)
Bird Watching Days Calendar, to help you keep track of your FeederWatch count days
Resource Download:


Welcome letter
Bird Watching Days Calendar, to help you keep track of your FeederWatch count days

Choose this option when you renew if you would rather not receive a kit or a print copy of Winter Bird Highlights (this option is only available to renewing participants). Please note that you will receive no project updates or reminders unless you subscribe to our electronic newsletter. Be sure to keep track of your ID number, which can be found near your mailing address on any mailing from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada are non-profit organizations supported primarily by participant and membership fees. Project FeederWatch would not be possible without the support of our participants—scientifically and financially. FeederWatch’s participant fees pay for website and database maintenance, data analysis, participant support, printing and shipping project materials, and dissemination of information learned from FeederWatch data. The fees also help cover the cost of publishing a year-end report, Winter Bird Highlights. While FeederWatch staff constantly seek other sources of funding, the reality is that without participant fees, the project would have to shut down.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology
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Embrace the Winter. Count Feeder Birds for Science!
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More Data To Explore

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Common Feeder Birds

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Tricky Bird IDs

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October 02, 2017

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February 27, 2017

The Not-so-usual Suspects: People’s Choice Award Winner
February 24, 2017

Where Do Painted Buntings Spend the Winter?
February 20, 2017


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Free Merlin Bird ID App for 3000+ North American Birds—Now With Photo ID

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 13:48
Download the Free Merlin Bird ID App

Free, Instant Bird ID Help for 400 North American birds

Bird ID Wizard—Step-by-step

Answer five simple questions about a bird you are trying to identify and Merlin will come up with a list of possible matches. Merlin offers quick identification help for beginning and intermediate bird watchers to learn about North America’s most common birds!

Results based on millions of eBird sightings

Merlin draws upon more than 70 million observations from the eBird citizen-science project.

It customizes your list to the species you are most likely to have seen at your location and time of year.

World-Class Content Professional bird photos, ID text, sounds, range maps

Browse more than 2.000 stunning images taken by top photographers. Merlin also includes more than 1,000 audio recordings from the Macaulay Library, identification tips from experts, and range maps from the Birds of North America Online.

Learn All About eBird with eBird Essentials Course

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 11:45

eBird Essentials

Show Transcript+
Birder, bird watcher, bird lover, doesn’t matter—this course is for you. Whether you watch birds at your feeder, on the way to work, or travel miles for that one bird you can’t wait to see, eBird can help. Discover how eBird can enhance your passion for birds and how your participation is helping us better understand them.

This free course guides you through how to get the most out of your eBirding experiences and invites you to become a part of this worldwide project.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes by Ian Davies/Macaulay Library

Your How-To Guide
Explore how eBird can help spark new birding adventures.

Discover tools that help you find birds wherever you go
Gain confidence submitting your sightings
Get expert tips for using eBird and joining the community
What is eBird?
Cerulean WarblereBird is the largest biological citizen-science program in the world. The eBird community gathers more than 100 million bird sightings each year from people like you. Providing a powerful tool for motivated bird enthusiasts everywhere, eBird helps you find more birds and keep track of your sightings. Collectively, these sightings are now empowering a global scientific community and helping answer pressing conservation questions.

Cerulean Warbler by Andrew Simon/Macaulay Library
Course Overview
Lesson 1: What is eBird?
Discover how eBird can help jump-start your birding and how your sightings contribute to science and conservation on a global level.

Lesson 2: Find Birds Near You
Learn how to use eBird to find birds and birding locations.

Lesson 3: Share Your Sightings
Use this step-by-step guide to contribute your sightings to eBird.

Lesson 4: My eBird
Explore your own birding story: your lists, photos, custom alerts for target species, and much more.

Lesson 5: Ready to eBird
Take the Ready to eBird quiz and get inspired to spot more birds.

Meet the Course Authors
Lindsay Glasner

Lindsay Glasner
Lindsay is the Outreach Coordinator with the Cornell Lab’s K-12 Education program where she leads workshops, manages the ambassador program, designs curricula, and creates online courses. Drawing from her graduate-level training in environmental education, Lindsay inspires teachers and their students to tune in to birds and ask their own scientific questions. Lindsay caught the birding bug while working at the Cornell Lab and is now a full-fledged birder and a passionate spokesperson for citizen science. Lindsay’s eBird profile

Ian Davies

Ian Davies
Ian is the eBird Project Coordinator at the Cornell Lab where he leads outreach and engagement efforts, and helps coordinate day-to-day project management. His interest in birds started when he was 12 and has taken him to more than 40 countries in the pursuit of the amazing natural treasures that this world has to offer—particularly shorebirds! One of Ian’s passions is sharing the wonder of birds with the wider world through photography, writing, and working at the Cornell Lab. Ian’s eBird profile

The eBird Essentials course is provided free of charge to anyone with an eBird or Bird Academy account. Good news! You can use the same account to sign in for both.

You need to be signed in to take this course.

eBird Explore Species Shows You Photos and Info on Every Bird in the World

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 11:02

Announcing Explore Species
By Team eBird October 24, 2018
White-capped Albatross
White-capped Albatross Thalassarche cauta
© Ian Davies
Macaulay Library
For the past 16 years, eBird has built cutting-edge birding tools. From life lists to sightings maps, and hotspot exploration to millions of photos and audio recordings, we’ve worked to provide the key elements that any birder needs. This month, we’ve added a fantastic new piece to the puzzle: Explore Species.

Explore Species unites the strengths of eBird, the Macaulay Library, and Merlin all in one place. It’s everything we have to offer, for every species in the world—from Merlin’s ID tips to Macaulay’s media treasure trove and the core backbone of your eBird sightings. Check out Explore Species at, and read on for examples to help you get started.

Quick identification tips
Each species page gives you quick access to image and audio galleries from the Macaulay Library, hand-picked to illustrate the characteristic features. If the species is one of the 3,000+ currently covered by Merlin, you can explore Merlin’s ID tips right where you need them.

Dashboard for your stats and contributions
We’ve pulled in stats from across eBird that show your experience with every species, including whether you’ve seen, photographed, and/or recorded that species, whether you’ve seen it this year, and the total times you’ve ever seen, photographed and reported that species in that region.

eBird has over 3 million observations of Barn Swallow: how many of those Barn Swallow sightings are yours? Click on any of the blue highlighted stats to see associated media and a list showing you exactly how many times and where you’ve seen that bird.

Show Off Your Habitat With a Habitat Network Sign and Stickers

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 05:54

Habitat Network Sign and Sticker Program
Becca Rodomsky-Bish October 24, 2018
Time to toot your horn and CELEBRATE!

Honor your hard work with Habitat Network by showcasing your efforts to your community with our GORGEOUS SIGNS.

This sturdy, 18 inch x 12 inch metal sign grows with your time and effort.

Donate to get yours today! Special Launch Bundles for mappers who’ve been around for more than the last year are available thru Dec 20th, 2018. Email us ( or check your October eNews for specifics about which launch bundle is the right fit for you.
Each year that you participate in our project you are eligible to earn a member sticker for that year–slowly, but surely, filling in the sign with “signs of life” showcasing the butterflies, birds, bees, and flowers that we work to support wherever we garden.

Get your sign and stickers! Celebrate. You have a lot to be proud of when you take the time to participate in citizen science and map . . .

Browse below to view our stickers for each year, beginning in 2012. Every October we will celebrate a new species by unveiling a new annual weatherproof sticker to add to your sign.

Robin fixed
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in partnership with National Geographic, Audubon, and BirdLife, came together to acknowledge and honor the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by marking 2018 as the Year of the Bird. The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is an icon across the United States and Canada, and one of the easiest birds to identify. This worm-eater can be seen in almost any yard or community. While they do enjoy lawns for easy hunting, American Robins, like many in the Thrush family, require native berries and fruits, especially in the winter months, making native shrubs a necessity for this bird. Robins require safe nesting areas along with healthy ecosystems for rearing young.

luna fixed
Luna moths (Actias luna) are one of the largest moths in North America. They are found predominantly east of the Rockies. Luna moths favor hardwood forests where they lay their eggs on a variety of trees such as white birch, walnuts, sweet gum, persimmon, and sumac. These quiet, private moths are massive in size and a spectacular sight to behold if you are lucky enough to spot one. As a member of the Lepidopteran family of insects, they are critical food sources in their local food chains and provide valuable pollination services during their adult stage (pictured).

Monarchs are just one example of the many pollinator species we are planting gardens for to counter habitat loss. As a host-specific species, monarchs need milkweed for laying their eggs to feed developing caterpillars. They also have the longest known migration of any butterfly. Monarchs have become a species of special concern as populations have shown drastic declines in the last decade. Planting native milkweeds and nectar-rich plants in our gardens helps support this majestic migrant.

Rusty-patched Bumblebee
Rusty-patched bumblebees (Bombus affinis), were historically found throughout the upper midwest, in parts of the northeast, and into southern Canada. At one time a usual visitor in pollinator gardens, this bee population is shrinking rapidly and being closely monitored by the USFWS. In 2015 a petition was submitted for this bee to be listed as an Endangered Species, it was officially listed in 2017. Planting native flower gardens, avoiding the use of pesticides, and providing bare earth for bumblebee nesting sites are easy ways to help protect this precious pollinator at home.

caterpillar fixed
The saddleback caterpillar (Acharia stimulea) becomes the nondescript slug moth, found east of the Rockies as far north as southern Canada and as far south as Florida and northern Mexico. The caterpillar is the showiest stage but can still be hard to locate while feasting on a variety of hardwood trees and shrubs. Caterpillars are critical visitors to our yards, feeding songbird nestlings and, as adults, helping to pollinate the flowering landscape.

Ladybugs (Coccinellidae), or Ladybirds, as they are referred to in Britain, are beneficial insects that not only brighten our gardens, but help to keep pesky aphids, thrips, mites, and mealybugs from devastating our flowers and vegetables. Hundreds of native species exist across North America and, while they have the term bug in their common name, they are technically beetles. They can be red, yellow, orange, green, with great variations of black spots on their wing covers. We welcome these beetles in our gardens and, with their help, we can put the pesticides away and let the insects do the work.

Like the acorn, that started small only to become a giant life-sustaining tree, our project began as a small nut in 2012, now supporting thousands of users across the United States and Canada who are creating habitat to support biodiversity. Oak trees are critical resources to hundreds of birds such as numerous species of woodpeckers, jays, and quail. Not to mention the many other ecological services they provide. Honor the oaks–for many big things start as small packages. (Did you know we like oak trees so much we have a poster devoted to them? Check it out and donate to get one.)

eBird Mobile and Merlin Bird ID Have New Integrated Features

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 19:36

New integrated features in eBird Mobile and Merlin Bird ID
By Team eBird October 22, 2018
Merlin Falco columbarius
© Darren Clark
Macaulay Library
The Cornell Lab’s mobile apps—eBird Mobile and Merlin Bird ID—are your birding essentials across the globe. Whether you’re at home or halfway around the world, mobile listing and quick ID references can help on every birding excursion. We are excited to announce that the latest versions of Merlin Bird ID and eBird Mobile work even better together. When noting sightings for eBird checklist, you can get a quick refresher on identification by clicking on the Merlin Bird ID icon in the species detail screen to jump to Merlin’s ID resources.

Tap the Merlin Bird ID button for quick access to Merlin info on that bird!

Merlin Bird ID has now integrated your eBird life list right into the Merlin app. Merlin puts a blue check mark next to birds on your eBird life list, giving you a neat way to explore birds and quickly see photos of all of the birds you’ve seen.

Explore your eBird life list right in Merlin, and see life list indicators on birds you’ve seen.

The life list integration also makes studying for that next birding trip a whole lot easier. If you have an Android you can now filter the bird list (triangle icon on the top right) to hide birds already on your life list. Now you have a curated list of birds to study or dream about. Development of this feature for iOS is coming soon.

Merlin content is available for the US, Canada, Mexico, most countries in Central America, major cities in Colombia, southeast Brazil, Britain, Ireland and Western Europe.

Download the latest versions of Merlin Bird ID and eBird Mobile to get the latest features—all for free.

Do Honey Bees Compete with Native Bees?

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 12:27

Do Honey Bees Compete with Native Bees?
Becca Rodomsky-Bish October 18, 2018
Bees Native Plants Pollinators
Bees busy buzzing, bumbling, or burrowing are captivating visitors in a garden. As a wildlife landscaper, there are few things as thrilling as watching the bustling bee-activity in flower beds. This has led some bee-enthusiasts to wonder: are native (a.k.a wild) bees and honey bees at odds with one another?

A bee pollinates a large lavender bush at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in California.
The science tells us, as it often does, it’s complicated.

We’d be remiss not to remind readers, before diving into this topic, that competition is a healthy aspect of natural systems that leads to specialization and co-existence. Some of the issues facing bees are human-induced, however, and lead researchers to ask how we might be applying pressure at rates that could be detrimental to some bee species’ populations. Read on for more…

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Bee research has become critical as there is mounting evidence that pollinators are on the decline.open_in_new The pollination services provided by bees are of enormous economic and environmental value.open_in_new Bees pollinate numerous crops in our food supply, like the above cherry orchard, and help maintain genetic diversity in our plant communities.open_in_new Bee vitality is, arguably, linked to that of many other species, including our own.

The lifestyle of honey bees (Apis) is very different from the thousands of species of bees native to North America. We have discussed the biology of honey bees in this article and the biology of some native bees in this article. In short, honey bees consist of seven species of non-native bees introduced to North America during colonial times for the valuable honey and wax they produce. They provide large-scale pollination services to commercial farms and orchards. Honeybees are eusocial, colonial nesters, and can be fiercely territorial.

Native bees, like the Augochloropsis metallica pictured, in contrast, are predominantly solitary nesters, with the exception of some species of bumblebees. There are upwards of 4,000 native bee species in North America, including about 50 different bumblebee species.open_in_new Native bees are generally docile, go-about-my-business bees. Many native bees do not have a stinger or very rarely use their stingers because they are not defending a collective hive filled with honey, where such drastic life-threatening defense strategies make sense. Their pollination services, however, are critical for trees, flowers, and shrubs.

Bumblebee (Bombus pennsylvanicus) on blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica). TNC Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.
These questions are often raised about the dynamics between native and honeybees:

Do honey and native bees spread diseases or parasites to one another?
Are the pressures facing native and honey bees the same?
Should I be planting or doing different things to support different bees?
Let’s start with some good news. There is clear evidence that native and honey bees cohabitate–the presence of one does not imply a lack of the other, as many of us witness in our gardens. Recent research documented that farmers who increase the diversity of foraging areas such as grasslands, wetlands, forest etc., available to pollinators near their farmers, successfully increased both honey and native bee populations.open_in_new A clear case of diversity begets diversity.open_in_new

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Likewise, where native and honey bees are living and pollinating side-by-side, overall fruit-set is improved compared to similar fields where only one or the other is found.open_in_new This is great news for farmers and orchardists, where pollination services are critical for a viable crop. The reason for this phenomena is hypothesized to be linked to subtle differences in feeding behavior. Honey bees prefer LOTS of flowers in ONE area.open_in_new They will gravitate towards plants that are loaded with flowers and and feed until the pollen and nectar are depleted.

Bee on stiff sunflower. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.
Native bees, such as bumblebees, mason bees, and carpenter bees, etc., are less concerned about aggregated flower availability and will visit flowers just as efficiently regardless of flower density. In the fields where increased pollination results from the presence of both native and honey bee populations it is likely that the honey bees effectively pollinate the mass flowering areas while native species specialize in out-of-the-way blooms and those blooming later or earlier than the primary bloom period. There is some evidence, however, that native bees will avoid the areas honey bees gravitate towards possibly because honey bees can be more aggressive and territorial than native bees.open_in_new The presence of both, however, is a winning combination for maximizing pollination services.

research is limited on bee diseas in wild
The simple answer is, yes, they can. The more complicated answer is, diseases and parasites are as diverse, if not more so, than the thousands of bee species that exist. There is also limited research that has been conducted on native bees. As the image above depicts, the existing corpus research is heavily biased towards honey bees leaving a fair amount unknown about disease in native bee populations.

Honey bee gathering poppy pollen in Vashon, Washington. Photo credit: Jo Robinson
The transmission of disease or parasites is dependent on the bees coming in contact with each other or each others’ environments.open_in_new When bees land on flowers they can leave behind pathogens (viruses, bacteria, etc.) or other parasites through their feces.open_in_new The next visitor can be exposed to those microbes or parasites and contract the associated disease(s), even if that next bee is of a different species. The Deformed wing virus (DWV)open_in_new, an RNA virus, has been shown to affect both disease-exposed honey and bumblebees.open_in_new

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DWV causes deformities in the wings and appendages of bees. Bees with the virus do not live long. In honey bees, the severity of this virus on a population is also linked with varroa mites who can transmit the virus to developing pupae in hives.open_in_new The impact of this virus on native wild bee populations is not fully understood, but there is concern that the virus has decreased the populations of bees that are vulnerable to it.open_in_new

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Another family of fungal pathogens that have been linked to declines is the Nosema. Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae are common pathogens in honey bee colonies. Nosema ceranae can be transmitted to certain species of bumblebees giving rise to speculation about the role this fungus might be playing in diminishing native bumblebee populations.open_in_new

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Nosema bombi, a different fungal infection in the Nosema genus, has likely influenced the decline of the pictured Rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) that is now on the Endangered Species List. This pathogen is suspected of being transmitted from escaped greenhouse bumblebees to wild bee populations.open_in_new Though this is not an example of honey bee to native bee transmission, it does allude to the potential fragility of wild bee populations exposed to domestic bee populations raised for pollination services.

It is all about the bumblebee buzz pollination. Since the 1980s, bumblebees have been used to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes and other crops. Originally practiced in Europe, it is now widespread throughout North America.open_in_new When a bumblebee lands on a flower they will vibrate their bodies to break the pollen free as they gather it, incidentally releasing some of the previously collected pollen-grains they are carrying on their fuzzy thorax . This activity makes bumblebees excellent pollinators for crops such as tomatoes, blueberries, and strawberries. Other features such as their effectiveness at pollinating inside and pollinating across wide temperature ranges, make them an excellent choice for greenhouses.

Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Yes. Disease, pesticide exposure, loss of habitat or habitat fragmentation, and climate change are all threats that bees are facing.open_in_new How these pressures specifically influence native and honey bee populations, however, is complicated.

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Climate change, for example, may threaten honey bees sooner than some bumblebees. In Norway, researchers found that bumblebee feeding correlated with warmer temperatures. As it became warmer, the feeding activity of bumblebees actually increased. This was not true for the honey bee. Honey bees preferred temperatures around 24.1 degree Celsius (75 degree Fahrenheit).open_in_new When temperatures started to rise above this, honey bee foraging decreased leading to concerns that perhaps honey bees will be more sensitive to the temperature pressures imposed by climate change.open_in_new

Lack of habitat and fragmentation affect numerous species, including bees. But, unlike some species, there is evidence that native and honey bees can both thrive in the urban, built environments that often replace larger tracks of native landscape. In fact, because honey and native bees may favor slightly different foraging opportunities in these landscapes, they might even be compatible members of an urban community.open_in_new

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Researchers in Germany found honey bees in urban environments were more likely to be regular pollinators in smaller, residential, or commercial gardens. Wild bees, however, were more commonly found in green spaces, pollinating trees and plants in less developed areas.open_in_new Both are present and vital components of urban pollinator services.open_in_new

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Another consideration for pressures facing bees are the kinds of plants made available in their habitat. Honey bees are considered generalistsopen_in_new, like the one pictured above about to feed on a squash family flower. They are capable of foraging on a wide range of plants, many of which are not native. Native bees, however, are sometimes specialists, preferring specific species of plants and flowers.

Bee on stiff goldenrod. Lincoln Creek Prairie, Aurora, Nebraska.
One study found that among the hundreds of bees in the northeast, 15% of them are specialists for specific plants.open_in_new Similar to Monarch butterflies that require milkweed plants to complete their reproduction cycle, some bees seek-out specific plants to satisfy specific nutritional needs, flower timing, or morphological relationships that determine their ability to successfully access pollen and nectar. If those plants are eliminated in their habitats, the bee populations that depend on them will suffer.

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Finally, bees are often sensitive to pesticide exposure. Neonicotinoids, for example, are a kind of pesticide that has been found to negatively affect honey bees and populations of bumblebees and mason bees.open_in_new There is limited research on other species of native bees and their responses to neonicotinoids or other pesticides has not been studied, but given the functional and biological similarities between bee species, it seems expeditious to hypothesize that these pesticides also negatively impact many species of bees. Thus, we recommend minimizing extraneous use of pesticides to help all bees.

Yes. If you want to help native bees thrive in your region, help to protect native biodiversity by keeping wild green spaces thriving, removing invasive species, and adding a diversity of native plants to your landscape.

Jacob Johnston (pictured in the field above), Project Assistant for Habitat Network, and Masters student in Natural Resources Management at Cornell University has unpublished research suggesting a yard comprised of approximately 75% native plant species and 25% nonnative plant varieties can result in an increased abundance of bee visits per hour to the gardens (Johnston and Dickinson, unpublished). A diversity of native and non-native flower types provide overlapping bloom times and variations in nectar and pollen accessibility that may extend the flowering season and reduce competition between specialist and generalist speciesopen_in_new, attracting an overall greater number and diversity of pollinating visitors to your landscape.

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Bees can have their preferences.open_in_new Some bees simply cannot reach the pollen or nectar of certain flowers due to their anatomy. Leafcutter bees, with their short tongues and large bodies cannot access long tubular flowers like penstemon and will stick to visiting upright flowers with short clustered florets, like native sunflowers. This leaves the penstemon for the small resin bees (Heriades), shown above, who can land on the bottom elongated petal and crawl deep inside for their sweet treat. When we have landscapes that are predominantly native, we help provide a little something for everyone, including the honey bee.

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If you are a beekeeper, who is also concerned about native bee populations, you can safely raise your honey bees in a place where you provide a diversity of habitatsopen_in_new–flower gardens, vegetable gardens, orchards, meadows, forests, wetlands, etc. Habitat diversity helps to provide vital resources to a diversity of bee species and thus strengthens pollination services in general. This is especially true in more urban environments where the landscape tends to be homogenized.open_in_new

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Landscape homogenization, where many of the floral resources are similar, or where resources are scarce, is the one area where direct competition between honey bees and bumblebees has been observed. In one study, honey bee hives were added to areas where bumblebee populations were present. In the areas with simple, homogeneous vegetative resources (i.e. not many kinds of plants) where hives were set, honey bees outcompeted bumblebees for limited resources. The same was not found to be true for heterogeneous landscapes where a diversity of foraging opportunities were available for both honey bees and bumblebees.open_in_new

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Besides offering a diversity in flowering plant habitats, the following are features you can add to support bees at home and in your community:

Bee houses (for mason and leaf cutter bees)
Bare earth (for nesting bees)
Logs (for carpenter bees)

…additional research measuring direct, long-term, and population-level effects of managed bees is needed to understand their potential impact on wild bees.
More time and researchopen_in_new is needed to fully understand the conditional competition that may exist between honey bees and native bees. In the meantime, we know there are pressures facing all bees. And, we can do something about it. To help bees, create diverse native landscapes, eliminate the use of pesticides, and spread the word to neighbors and communities that they can be a part of the solution for our struggling bee populations.

Thank you to Mia Park, Postdoctoral Fellow at North Dakota State University for reviewing this content. Her research lab can be followed on Twitter @ColdBugLife.

Thinking Outside the (Nest) Box

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 23:44

Thinking Outside of the (Nest) Box is an educational resource created by NestWatch, a citizen-science program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This curriculum will introduce grades 5–8 to the world of nesting birds and engage youth in STEM learning and citizen science through the construction, installation, and monitoring of nest boxes.
The activities in Thinking Outside of the (Nest) Box will introduce youth to the life cycle of nesting birds and provide instructions for building and installing nest boxes, which in turn will enable youth to become citizen scientists and report their observations of nesting birds to the NestWatch program. Five activities are included which cover:

building and installing nest boxes,
life cycles,
proper monitoring and observation of nesting birds, and
data collection and analysis.

Make one birdhouse as a class, or one per student—it’s your choice. You’ll get students outdoors to peek into a wild bird’s nest, collect data, make predictions from information presented in graphs, and ask questions based on your unique habitat. The lessons align with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards for grades 5–8.

If you cannot print these resources or simply prefer a full-color printed copy, please email for a free copy (shipped within the US and Canada, while supplies last).

Additional resources:
Activity 1 Resources:
NestWatch slideshow
Activity 2 Resources:
Video 1 – How to assemble a nest box

Video 2 – How to install your nest box
Nest Check Data Sheet

NestWatch Mobile App for iOS or Android

Activity 3 Resources:
NestWatch slideshow: download from Activity 1.

Bingo Playing Cards

Activity 4 Resources:
NestWatch slideshow: download from Activity 1.

Video 3 – How to check a nest

Activity 5 Resources:
NestWatch slideshow: download from Activity 1.

Teacher’s Guide: Eavesdropping on Elephants

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 23:26

Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation by Patricia Newman

Purchase this book on Amazon

The Eavesdropping on Elephants – Teacher’s Guide features 10 activities that target national science, English, mathematics, and art education standards for grades 4-6. This website provides summary background information, along with digital content that complements the printable guide.

Supplementary Materials for the Activities in the Guide:
Activity 3: A Language of Your Own
Watch the video of two elephants greeting each other below, then discuss the questions found in the teacher’s guide.

Activity 8: Identifying the Science Process
Use the BirdSleuth K-12 Science Process Discovery Poster to familiarize students with the science method and aid the activity.

Activity 9: Decoding Spectrograms
Watch the four elephant behavior videos below (also available on the Elephant Listening Project website) and answer the observational questions found in the teacher’s guide. You may also wish to visit the Macaulay Library for sound recordings and sample spectrograms of various other species.

Activity 10: Spectrogram Creators
The following sites are great examples of programs researchers use to create spectrograms from audio recordings:

Raven – Interactive Sound Analysis Software
If you’re looking to explore spectrogram creation software with your class, we recommend trying out Raven Lite (a free software program for beginners, students, and educators) as well as this helpful spectrogram view explanation page provided by Audacity.

eBird Essentials for Educators

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 23:08

Citizen science projects like eBird can help educators make concrete connections between classroom learning and life skills, preparing your students with the tools they need to thrive in the world. Being an eBird citizen scientist involves bird identification and confident data entry. The eBird Essentials for Educators guide gives educator-tested tips, tools, and activities for scaffolding students in identifying birds and submitting data as a class. It was designed to complement the eBird Essentials course. We highly recommend that educators take this course to become familiar with eBird before using this guide with students.

Download Guide Button

Related Links and Resources
Citizen Science and Outdoor Learning
NGSS & Citizen Science: Learn More about how citizen science helps educators meet the and the Next Generation Science Standards.
Citizen Science in Your Outdoor Classroom: Teach science by engaging with local wildlife in real-world studies.
Outdoor Teaching Tips: What’s keeping you inside? Try these eight tips for leading groups outdoors.
Bird Identification
Inside Birding Videos: This series of four videos guides you through the four basic keys to bird identification with clear instruction and examples. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s online field guide with images, range maps, sounds, and fun facts.
Teaching Bird ID: Planning to go birding with your students? Check out these tips for identifying what you see!
Which Field Guide?: Too many field guid choice? Don’t worry. Just follow these guidelines to find the right guide for you and the youth you work with.
Binoculars for Birding: Learn how to obtain, use, and store a fundamental tool of bird watching: binoculars.
eBird Modeling
eBird Science: eBird transforms your bird observations into critical data for research, conservation, and education.
eBird Modeling Homepage: Discover these dynamic models that showcase the full annual cycle of birds.
Wood Thrush Model
Barn Swallow Model

Evening Grosbeak Call Types of North America

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 13:27

Evening Grosbeak Call Types of North America
By Matt Young, Tim Spahr, and Andrew Spencer October 1, 2018
Evening Grosbeak
Evening Grosbeak Coccothraustes vespertinus
© Christoph Moning
Macaulay Library
The Evening Grosbeak is a fascinating finch: completely absent from most birders’ visibility some years, and at every feeder in its range in others. Even more noteworthy is that, like Red Crossbills, Evening Grosbeak populations have different flight calls. We know from studies of Red Crossbills and the recent elevation of Type 9 Red Crossbill to Cassia Crossbill that these calls are important for flock cohesion and likely play an important role in speciation, but more research is needed to better understand Evening Grosbeak call types. We review what is known about the distribution of Evening Grosbeaks as well as provide descriptions of the known call types. Your eBird observations and audio recordings help us better understand the distribution of call types and their taxonomic significance.
Historical changes in Evening Grosbeak distribution
The Evening Grosbeak has one of the more interesting past and present stories of any species in North America. Beginning in the late 1800s to the 1950s people began noticing large, periodic winter flights of Evening Grosbeak in the northeastern United States. From the 1960s to the early 1990s, Evening Grosbeak irruptions occurred almost annually, with flights involving massive numbers of individuals. These irruptions corresponded with significant spruce budworm outbreaks in 1945–1955 and 1968–1988 across the boreal forest in eastern Canada (Bolgiano 2004).

Not only did Evening Grosbeaks numbers fluctuate in the Northeast in response to spruce budworms, but Bent (1968) noted their eastward expansion as well:

“…Facilitating their eastward extension has been the widespread planting in the east during the past few decades of the box elder (Acer negundo) as a shade tree (Allen, 1919). The seeds of the box elder, which hang on the trees all winter, are preferred by the evening grosbeak to anything else, when available, and Taverner (1921) calls the situation a “baited highway” along which the grosbeaks have been able to travel.”

Some individuals that followed the eastward “baited highway” of box elder plantings also encountered spruce budworm outbreaks that provided them with ample resources and eventually they stayed in the area to breed. By the 1940s Evening Grosbeaks were breeding in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, with a few nesting records in Pennsylvania and Connecticut (Young 2008). The species’ expansion was also supported by the proliferation of pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) and a fondness for sunflower seeds at a growing numbers of bird feeders across the East (Bonter and Harvey 2008). In fact, for a few decades Evening Grosbeaks were one of the most common species seen at bird feeders across much of North America in the winter. In areas as far south as the Carolinas and even farther south to the mountains of Georgia, Evening Grosbeaks occurred in large numbers biennially. Now, however, Evenings Grosbeaks appear to have experienced a significant population decline and are now listed as species of special concern in Canada. Population declines are due, in part, to habitat loss of mature diverse forests and forest management practices aimed at reducing spruce budworm numbers (Bonter and Harvey 2008).

Evening Grosbeak diet
Evening Grosbeaks tend to eat seeds of maples, ashes, apples, box elder, cherries, Russian olive, and occasionally pines (Gillihan and Byers 2001). They also eat sunflower seeds at bird feeders, but due to their beak and body size they only take sunflower seeds from hopper and platform feeders.

Potential differences in food preference according to call type are poorly known. Mexican birds (Call Type 5) tend to frequent coniferous forests, suggesting that they may feed on pines more frequently than other call types farther north, but more study is needed.

Evening Grosbeak call types
Evening Grosbeaks have several call types in their repertoire; in this article we focus on the variation in flight calls. Their other common call, the “trill call,” is not identifiable to type with current knowledge. The function of the other quiet, plastic calls of Evening Grosbeaks is unknown.

Flight calls in social finches are the main contact call used for flock cohesion and several finches have different flight calls. In the Red Crossbill complex for example, 10 different flight calls have been identified in North America, one of which (Type 9) is now a new species—the Cassia Crossbill (Loxia sinesciuris).

Sewall, Kelsey, and Hahn first described Evening Grosbeak call types in 2004 (Sewall et al. 2004). They described 5 call types and found that like Red Crossbills, grosbeak call types are geographically restricted. During eruptions, however, grosbeaks with different call types may occur in the same area. Different call types may also associate with different tree species as in Red Crossbills, but more study is needed.

Fig. 1. Spectrogram of Evening Grosbeak calls from left to right Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, Type 4, and Type 5 for comparison.

In 2009, Aaron Haiman, a student of Tom Hahn, studied the Evening Grosbeak complex in greater detail and found that bill morphology differs among call types, especially among females. These differences he suggests could affect mate selection and speciation. Haiman also examined call type distribution across North America and created a generalized distribution map of the 5 call types. Below, we’ve laid out full descriptions of each of the call types.

Evening Grosbeak (Type 1) Coccothraustes vespertinus brooksi (Grinnell, 1917)

Evening Grosbeak (Presumed Type 1) by Ryan P. O’Donnell/Macaulay Library

Known range: Commonly breeds across the Pacific-Northwest, its core range. Type 1 is the most widespread type in the west, from the northern Rockies and the Cascades to at least British Columbia and south to Oregon, northern Wyoming, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Wanders to the northern Sierra Nevada and to San Bernardino California, and to Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Recordings by Aaron Bowman recently confirmed Type 1 in north coastal Alaska. Known to occasionally overlap in range with Types 2, 3, and 4, including during the breeding season. Might also overlap in range with Type 5 in Arizona. Type 1 likely occurs across more of the west, but more recordings are needed to accurately reflect its actual range. eBird map

Flight call: Descending chee-er; said to have a more pure-tone that begins at a high frequency, rises slightly, and then descends rapidly (Sewall et al. 2004). Its call is more thin and whistled. The other call types described as tee-er, keeer, peeer, p-teeee, p-teer and clee-ip, among other variations.

On a spectrogram, Type 1’s flight call is clear and descending with an initial quick rise in pitch. Spectrographically it is quite similar to Gray-cheeked and Bicknell’s Thrush flight calls. Type 1 starts with a narrow uptick from 2 to 5+ kHz, followed by a sharp drop, a slight leveling off, and another sharp drop. No harmonic banding is evident in spectrogram. The peak is up above 5 kHz and higher than other Evening Grosbeak flight calls, but much of the energy is in the lower frequency part of spectrum making Type 1 sound slightly lower-pitched than Types 2 and 4. Separating Types 1 and 2 where they overlap in primarily California and Oregon can be quite challenging.

Fig. 2. Spectrogram of Type 1 flight calls. Note the sharp drop in pitch and greater force in the lower frequencies.

Additional Notes/Irruptions: Bill thick, but slightly less slender than birds in Central Rockies and Mexico (Grinnell 1916). Most irruptive and widespread type in the West, and quite likely the most abundant too, often irrupting to foothills areas throughout much of the West. If a western type were to show in the east with Type 3, it would likely be Type 1. Modest numbers of Type 1 moved during the fall and winter 2017, but so far in 2018 there has been no discernable sign of a significant movement. However, movements could still occur in October–December.

Evening Grosbeak (Type 2) Coccothraustes vespertinus californicus (Grinnell, 1917)

Evening Grosbeak (Presumed Type 2) by Jay McGowan/Macaulay Library.

Known range: Core breeding range is largely restricted to the Sierra Nevada of California where it commonly breeds; occasional to Oregon in s. Cascades and rarely to Washington and amazingly a record in North Dakota. eBird map

Flight call: tee-er; thinner in quality and tends to sound higher pitched (Sewall et al. 2004). Begins with a pronounced rise followed by a gradual and steady drop in frequency. Type 2 is similar to Type 1, but is a bit more explosive, whistled, and piercing.

Type 2 flight calls are high and clear-sounding. Spectrographically Type 2 is similar to Type 1 with a distinctive inverted “V” shape. However, Type 2 flight calls spend more time and deposits more energy near the apex of the inverted “V” around 5 kHz, thus producing a higher sound on average than Type 1. These flight calls are similar in appearance to Gray-cheeked and Bicknell’s Thrush calls, but without modulation or banding evident in spectrogram.

Figure 3. Spectrogram of Evening Grosbeak Type 2 call note.

Additional Notes/Irruptions: Bill intermediate in thickness between boreal/eastern birds and Mexican birds (Grinnell (1916). Wanders, at least, rarely north to southern Washington where it overlaps with Call Type 1. In 2017 it moved in very small numbers to southern California, but this type generally is not known to move much outside of the Sierra Nevada. Type 2 is quite possibly one of the least common (Hahn pers. comm.).

Evening Grosbeak (Type 3) Coccothraustes vespertinus vespertinus (Cooper, W, 1825)

Evening Grosbeak (Presumed Type 3) by Amanda Guercio/Macaulay Library.

Known range: Core breeding range is boreal forests of Canada east of the Rockies to Newfoundland and in the northeastern United States; wanders southward to the southern Appalachians and historically rarely to the Gulf Coast, but such events have become much less common the last 25 years. eBird map

Flight call: clee-ip; begins with a harsh trill and then only slightly descends. Burry and resembles call of House Sparrow.

Type 3 flight calls look most like Type 5, but overall are quite distinctive spectrographically. The rough and burry-sound is plainly evident in spectrograms. Type 3 flight calls show an initial “down-up-down” component around 3–3.5 kHz followed by several bands between 2 and 4 kHz. The strength of this banding feature appears unique to Type 3.

Fig. 4. Spectrogram of Evening Grosbeak Type 3 call.

Additional Notes/Irruptions: Bill is the shortest and thickest of all the types (Grinnell 1916). Most irruptive of all the types as well. Wanders south in the mountains in the East, but irruptions have been much smaller and infrequent south of Pennsylvania in the last 15+ years. Prior to the 1980s wandered as far south as Georgia with some regularity, but in recent decades it is very rare south of the Northeastern states. From 1967-1991, Evening Grosbeaks showed up every year during the Ithaca, NY Christmas Bird Count. A small movement out of the Maritime Provinces into the New England states took place in 2017. A small to perhaps even modest movement could take place in the Great Lakes and Northeastern States this fall-winter 2018. See Ron Pittaway’s winter finch forecast.

Evening Grosbeak (Type 4) Coccothraustes vespertinus warreni (Grinnell, 1917)

Evening Grosbeak (Presumed Type 4) by Mark Linardi/Macaulay Library

Known range: Breeds in a core area from central to southern Rockies of Utah, Colorado and New Mexico; occasionally wanders and likely breeds north to the vicinity of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and rarely to central Montana. eBird map.

Flight call: “p-teer;” a very rapid frequency drop followed by an abrupt rise. Similar to Type 2, but huskier or burrier sounding.

Type 4 flight calls sound intermediate between Type 2 and 3 in the field, and are separable spectrographically based on the “down-up-down” feature at the beginning of the call, as well as the slight banding evident in the longer portion of the call near 4 kHz. This banding is also what gives Type 4 the slightly burry sound that helps separate it from Type 2 in the field; though not as burry sounding as Type 3 though.

Fig. 5. Spectrogram of Evening Grosbeak Type 4 call.

Additional Notes/Irruptions: Bill intermediate in thickness but slenderer than birds found in the boreal and east (Grinnel 1916). Not thought to be very irruptive, but does occasionally irrupt to foothills areas of the Rockies. Small numbers were seen in the lowlands of the Rockies in 2017, and numbers could move again this year October–December. Bryant Olsen reports that Type 4 seems to prefer to feed on Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) in Utah in winter.

Type 5 Evening Grosbeak Coccothraustes vespertinus montanus (Ridgway, 1874)

Evening Grosbeak (Presumed Type 5) by Alan Monroy Ojeda /Macaulay Library

Known range: Core range appears to be the Sierra Madre of Mexico, north to southeastern Arizona and the bootstrap of sw. New Mexico. All knowledge of this Call Type is based on two recordings by R. Hoyer from the Huachuca Mountains. eBird map.

Flight call: The long-sounding “cheeeerr” Type 5 flight calls are quite ringing, burry, and piercing, with a strong descending sound evident in the field.

Type 5 spectrograms are fairly complex with the main component around 4kHz and slowly descending. A secondary component is visible around 9kHz. Type 5 flight calls also show a short initial downward component around 4–5kHz. Close inspection of spectrogram reveals fine rapid modulation, similar to what is seen in Gray-cheeked and Bicknell’s Thrush flight calls. There is a somewhat buzzy, ringing quality similar to Type 3, but these two types don’t appear to overlap in range.

Fig. 6. Spectrogram of Evening Grosbeak Type 5 calls.

Additional Notes/Irruptions: Appears to be among the least common of the call types, even in its core range. Rarely encountered even in apparently ideal habitat, though the area around Cofre de Perote, Veracruz does seem to offer the best chance of finding it. Seemingly rare and highly erratic in the United States. Bill much slenderer in Mexican birds (Type 5) than any of the other forms (Grinnell 1916).

The Macaulay Library has 359 recordings of Evening Grosbeak, a slight majority of which can be assigned to call type, but more recordings are needed to better understand the distribution of call types. Even for the types with the most recordings, a larger sample size covering a wider geographic area can help clarify the wider occurrence and distribution picture of the species.

Of the 359 recordings in the collection, Type 1 is the most well represented with 89 recordings, followed by 49 of Type 3, 28 of Type 2, but only 13 of Type 4 and 2 of Type 5. The remaining recordings are either recordings still in need of identification or are trill calls, possible songs, or various quiet vocalizations that with current knowledge are not identifiable to call type.

Astute readers will note that while eBird allows reporting to Evening Grosbeak call types, eBird does not match those to a scientific name as we do above. The main reason for this is that the eBird/Clements Checklist (2017 eBird/Clements taxonomy (v2017) has had a subspecies taxonomy in place for many years that includes three subspecies of Evening Grosbeak. Although there are 5 subspecies names that appear to match well with the distributions and appearance of Evening Grosbeak call types, a publication confirming this relationship has yet to be published. Our use of the subspecies names with the call types above should be considered a scientific hypothesis, yet to be established in peer-reviewed literature.

If you record an Evening Grosbeak, please enter it as “Evening Grosbeak” in eBird, upload the recording to your checklist, and send the link to the checklist to the authors (contact information below) for assistance with identification to specific call type. If identification to Type can be confirmed via the recording, you can easily use the new Change Species feature in eBird to search for the correct grosbeak type and revise the identification. If you try to identify the type yourself, do not worry if you misidentify the proper call type; one of the authors will contact you after listening to your recording. Keep in mind that many grosbeaks can be typed from poor recordings, so we encourage you to make a recording, even with your smartphone (Learn about smartphone recording). However, as with Red Crossbill, please be conservative, especially with observations that are not supported by a recording. Please do not assume call types based on range.

Understanding how these flight call differences relate to traditional taxonomy is fraught with complexity and requires more recordings of flight call types across a large geographic area, especially in the western mountains. Recordings paired with bird measurements may be even more telling as Haiman (2011) also found a significant difference in bill morphology that produce different flight calls.

You can make significant contributions to the research Tom Hahn and former students have conducting over the last 15 years by sharing your recordings of Evening Grosbeaks with eBird and the Macaulay Library.

Please be sure to record any Evening Grosbeak you hear, even if all you have is a smartphone, just be sure to record using .wav format (Apps that record in .wav)—each grosbeak recording adds an important piece to the puzzle, especially when accompanied by notes on behavior. If you think you hear two different call types, please be sure to make a recording as information on call types overlap, is greatly needed. The conservation of grosbeak call types will depend in large measure on our understanding of their complex distributions and ecological associations. Birders can make critical contributions to their conservation by recording grosbeak calls and by reporting their findings.

Learning to identify Evening Grosbeak call types is about as easy as learning your Red Crossbill types, which is to say, not that easy! All 5 types are represented in the Macaulay Library collection, but Types 4 and 5 are quite under-represented. Listen to more cuts here.

A couple of our favorite recordings where multiple types have been known to co-occur include:
1) Lance Benner’s cut of both Type 1 and 2 occurring together in southern California.
2) Mike Hearell recording of both Type 1 and 4 in Weber, Utah.
3) Type 1 and 3 can be heard well in this William W. H. Gunn Alberta, Canada cut at the 4-minute mark.

Lastly, there’s also evidence that suggests some or all Evening Grosbeak types sing a simple song mostly given around dawn. Notice the repetitive nature of the how the calls are given in the song in the examples below.

For more on this subject and Evening Grosbeak call types in general, read Nathan’s Pieplow’s informative articles on the subject.

Download all the grosbeak calls from this story

We would like to thank the Macaulay Library at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology for recordings, and Tom Hahn and his former students Kendra Sewall, Rodd Kelsey, and Aaron Haiman for getting us started down the grosbeak road— without their research, many of us wouldn’t even know this call type phenomena even occurs in this complex. Lastly, we’d also like to thank Lab staff Marshall Iliff, Kathi Borgmann, and Ian Davies for advice, editing, and contributions to this piece.

Literature Cited
Bonter, D. N., and M. G. Harvey (2008). Winter survey data reveal range-wide decline in Evening Grosbeak populations. Condor 110:376–381.

Bent, A. C., and O. L. Austin, Jr. (1968). Life histories of North American cardinals, grosbeaks, buntings, towhees, finches, sparrows, and allies. 3 Parts. Bulletin of the United States National Museum: 237. 1889pp.

Bolgiano, N. C. (2004). Cause and effect: changes in boreal bird irruptions in eastern North America relative to the 1970s spruce budworm infestation. American Birds 58:26-33.

Gillihan, S. W., and B. E. Byers (2001). Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Grinnell, J. (1917). The subspecies of Hesperiphona vespertina. Condor 19:17-22.

Haiman, A. N. K. (2011). Levels of variation in evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) calls and morphology (Order No. 1502353). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (909054837). Retrieved from

Sewall, K., R. Kelsey, and T. P. Hahn (2004). Discrete Variants of Evening Grosbeak Flight Calls. Condor 106: 161-65.

Young, M. A. (2008). Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus). Pages 620-621 In The second atlas of breeding birds in New York state (K. J. McGowan and K. Corwin, Eds.). Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.

Please address comments or questions on this article to the authors at,, or

*Matthew A. Young, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, NY 14850.

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Seasonal Wildlife Habitat Calendar

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 12:00

Seasonal Wildlife Calendar
Jacob Johnston October 1, 2018
Bees Birds Native Plants Other Wildlife Pollinators calendar
Seasonal changes and national holidays offer key moments throughout the year for wildlife. As the seasons progress, plant life grows through its various cycles and the blossoms, fruits, and seeds produced, play an important role in the life cycle requirements of local birds, pollinators and other wildlife. Let our wildlife calendar help guide your annual gardening activities.

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Nesting birds, for example, need building materials and protein from insects which are attracted to new leaves and blossoms in the spring, while migrating and overwintering birds need the sugars and fats from late-season berries and seeds to store energy reserves.

Likewise, calendar events recognizing the importance of wildlife can improve the support and success of conservation efforts, furthering their impact. Habitat Network recognizes this and has put together this calendar with a collection of holidays based on birds, butterflies, bees, and all sorts of wonderful wildlife that need our support and attention. Each month we will offer a new wildlife calendar to print or use as a desktop wallpaper, complete with information to help you maximize your seasonal efforts.

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