Who can participate?
Anyone! The only requirement is that you find an active bird nest, record the breeding activity and enter your data through the online Data Entry page on this web site (coming soon). We are especially interested in data on American Robin. If you are a teacher and the school yard has the potential for Robins to nest, you could incorporate this program as a special activity to your natural sciences' course.
Can I report nests from outside the city of Ottawa through this website?
No. We accept observations on nests from anywhere inside the municipal city limits of Ottawa. This is a larger area than the OBBC study area for the Point Count and Census Plot programs. If you have nest observations from outside Ottawa, you should submit them directly to the Ontario Nest Records Scheme or Project Nestwatch.
Can I record inactive nests?
No. We needs records of "actively used" nests, which correspond to nests that contain eggs or nestlings, or nests under active construction. Older nests from previous seasons should not be reported.
Can I enter data for birds in nest boxes?
Yes. Remember that before looking up in nest box, you should always give it a few taps in order for the female to leave the box. If the box has a panel which opens, you can directly look at its contents. If the box was not designed to be opened, you can try using a flashlight to see inside. This method can be a little bit difficult so if you cannot see the contents properly, you can still make important observations. If you see birds close to the nest, watch their behaviour. If you see them bring twigs or food (e.g., an insect), it means that they are building a nest or feeding young. Such observations can tell us whether the nest was at least partially successful. We ask you be very careful if you need to use a ladder or stepladder!
How much time will this project take me?
The time you devote to the project is entirely up to you. However, you should keep in mind that if you find a nest and want to follow it through the nesting season, you will need to give a bit of your time, possibly a few hours, spread over two to four weeks. Although we accept records of nests that have been visited only once, we encourage you to make multiple visits (3-5 days apart) to the same nest as this provides us with valuable additional information.
Can my visits to the nest harm the birds or interfere with the nesting attempt?
This is unlikely if you are cautious while moving around the nest. In some situtations there may be an increased chance of predation from the observer leaving a track or scent-trail to nests. If you are careful and follow the instructions on our nest monitoring info page and the Nest Monitoring Code of Conduct this should not be a problem. Recent studies have shown that nests visited frequently had a similar rate of success to others left undisturbed between laying and fledging and birds, will continue to care for their young after being disturbed. However, the primary concern is for the safety of the nest and nestlings so if you feel your actions are causing undue stress to the birds please leave the area.
The nest is too high and I cannot see the contents. Do you have some suggestions?
Yes, but the ideal method depends on the actual height of the nest. If it is less than about two metres off the ground, you may be able to see the contents using a stepladder or a ladder. Stay alert and be very careful. Breeding birds most often protect their nest by diving at potential predators like you. Do not let them break your concentration!
If the nest is not accessible using a ladder but is still less than 4 or 5 metres off the ground, you can try using a long pole and a mirror attached to it. See Bird Studies Canada's Finding and Monitoring Nests page for more details.
In cases where the nest is more than 5 metres above ground or it is not readily accessible such as in a swamp, we recommend you do not attempt to look at the contents. Your safety and the safety of the nest should be your first priority. However you can still make important observations, if you see birds close to the nest, watch their behaviour. If you see them bring twigs or food (e.g., an insect), it means that they are building a nest or feeding young. Such observations can tell us whether the nest was at least partially successful and should be reported.
What are the data used for?
Nest monitoring is a powerful tool in monitoring the health of bird populations and in identifying the causes behind population fluctuations or changes resulting from development. Measuring the reproductive success of birds in different parts of the city and over the long term can tell us a great deal about how our cities affect bird populations. In addition, because these data are public and are incorporated into regional and national nest monitoring programs (Project Nestwatch and the Ontario Nest Records Scheme), the data can also be used to document the effects of climate change or other factors on breeding birds (e.g., changes in nesting dates, nesting success or distribution). This type of nest record data has been gathered since the end of the 1950's through regional nest record schemes and the information is already used by scientists from universities and government agencies, amateur naturalists, nature writers, etc.
I already sent my nest records to Project Nestwatch or the ONRS. What should I do?
Nest records should only be submitted once so if you have already sent them to a regional scheme, please do not create a duplicate entry here. However, if you are experienced at safely monitoring breeding bird nests, please contact the OBBC coordinator (email@example.com). We have a more detailed field sheet that is closely modelled after Bird Studies Canada's Project NestWatch and collects some more detailed information on the type of habitat and human landuse surrounding the nest that are particularly relevant to birds in urban areas. Send us an email and we'll ask you a few quick questions that will help us fill in the blanks.
What should I do if I see a young bird fallen out of the nest?
Although this may be difficult to accept, the general rule in such a case is to refrain from doing anything and hope for the best. Most attempts to save the bird (especially a bird that may not need to be saved in the first place) will do more harm than good. Therefore, examine the situation carefully before attempting anything. It is not uncommon that birds will wander a short distance from the nest during the last days before fledging, and if parents are around, they will continue to care for them. Look at the feathers, especially the wing feathers to see if they are well opened. If so, it is best to leave the bird where you find it, unless there is an immediate risk such as a cat nearby, in which case you may try to find a secure place on a higher branch near where you found the bird.
If the bird is younger (e.g., feathers not completely opened and not covering the entire body), you should attempt to place the young back in its nest. If the nest is too high, you can try building a little improvised platform (e.g., a small plastic container lined with small twigs) and placing it on a branch. Then, leave the nest alone and if you want to observe the parents coming back, do so from a distance.
What you should not do:
- Wait around the nest to see if the parents will come back. If you are visible, they will not come back.
- Try to feed the bird yourself. A diet that is not perfectly adapted will kill the young. Moreover, young birds need to be fed several times every hour, all day long: you will not be able to keep up.
- Give water. Young birds do not drink in nature, but receive their water from the food they eat.
Remember that the longer you stay with the young, the smaller will be its chances of surviving.
Where can I find models to build nest boxes?
In books. Your public library or local book store should have a few books on the subject of nest boxes. Here are two books with complete information related to nest boxes:
- Stokes, Donald and Lillian. Birdhouse book: the complete guide to attracting nesting birds. Broquet, LaPrairie, 1995. 96 p.
- Dion, A. 1986. Construire des cabanes d'oiseaux : des dizaines de modèles faciles à réaliser. Éditions de l'Homme. Montréal (Québec). in French
On the Internet. Many web sites provide information on nest boxes. We recommend two sites that offer information for a number of species:
- The Bird House Network, by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You will find several different types of nest box models, box measurements for common species, species fact sheets, predator guard plans, etc.
- Hinterland Who's Who, by Environment Canada. This site shows a few models, along with box measurements and breeding characteristics for many common species. However, as the models shown do not allow boxes to be opened to check their contents or to be cleaned, we recommend you add a hinge to one of the panels (top, side or front) if you decide to follow these models. See the above web site to view examples of boxes that can be opened.
Things to remember. If you want birds to nest successfully in your nest boxes, you should remember to:
- Protect the boxes from predators. For this, do not place them in a place where a raccoon or a squirrel could get to the box, and for boxes that are close to the ground, add a predator guard.
- Clean them (avoid using detergent). In fall, once the nesting season is over, you should remove the old nest material. At the same time, it will eliminate parasites.