April 15, 2013
Imagine the majestic grace of a Tree Swallow in flight or the aerial acrobatics of a Barn Swallow over a grassy meadow on a warm summer evening. Now imagine a world without these lovely birds. Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows, along with Violet-green Swallows, Purple Martins, and Eastern Phoebes, belong to a group of birds known as aerial insectivores. Their agile flight style enables them to effectively hunt their primary prey: flying insects. Over the past 30 years, populations of many aerial insectivores have declined, and the cause remains unknown. Scientists have theorized that it may be linked, in part, to declines of some insects on which these birds depend. You can help scientists study and understand the plight of aerial insectivores by monitoring their nests.
Please consider joining NestWatch at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology or Project NestWatch at Bird Studies Canada. Anyone with a bird nesting in their yard or neighborhood can help monitor nesting success. Project participants monitor one or more nests or nest boxes every 3 to 4 days to observe when eggs are laid, when they hatch, and when chicks take their first flights. Observations are reported online. Participation is free, although a small donation is suggested to help support the program.
Participate in the U.S.
Signing up is easy via the NestWatch website. After signing up, you will first do a bit of online training to understand how best to observe nesting birds without disturbing them. For more information on how to find nests of aerial insectivores, as well as the nests of other birds, visit the NestWatch Focal Species webpage.