Conservation & You

Become a Certified Nest Watcher

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Ornithologists (bird scientists) need you! Cornell University is looking for nestwatchers to help collect data about nesting birds.

As a nestwatcher, you will be a real field worker watching when nesting occurs, how many eggs are laid and then hatch, and how many hatchlings survive.

There are four steps: 

  • Get certified
  • Search
  • Visit nests
  • Report data

Go to Cornell’s website www.nestwatch.org. You’ll find all the information you need. Yes, this means you’ll be doing some research to get ready to be a nestwatcher. You’ll get a head start by looking for nests during the winter. Because so many trees are bare, you’ll easily spot old nests and won’t worry about disturbing active nests. This will help you form ideas about where to look for new nests in the spring. Most birds in our country nest from March through August.  You can easily learn when the birds that are common in your area usually nest. Once in the field, you’ll be listening for clues: male birds mark the boundaries of their territory so you’ll know where to search. Listen to females calling to their mates. Binoculars are a helpful tool. Have your notebook handy so you can mark locations on a map or make a drawing of the area you plan to search. 


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Okay – you’ve found a nest and you’re ready to really get to work! Here’s what you do:

  • Write a short description of your nest site. 
  • Record your data on a nestwatch site that you create on your computer. 
  • Check the nest every three to four days. During each visit, record the number of eggs, what you notice about the baby birds, and other behaviors of the parent birds. 
  • After the nest is empty, visit one last time to see if any unhatched eggs or (sadly) dead hatchings remain. 
  • Record all your observations on your nestwatch website.

If you're already set up to be a nestwatcher, you can login here.

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