Instructions for adding behavioral data to FeederWatch checklists
If you would like to contribute behavioral observations to your FeederWatch checklists, please read our definitions of the behaviors to learn what behaviors to look for.
Report your observations
Once you have observed one of the target behaviors, follow these steps to report your observations:
- Enter your FeederWatch counts as you normally would, and click on the red “Submit Count” button.
- When the Count Summary page that comes up, click on the link saying “Enter behavioral interactions for this count.”
- A new page will come up showing the count date and a list of the birds you saw during the count. Make sure this is the count you intend to enter behavioral observations for.
- Scroll down to the first pull-down menu. Select the source species for the interaction you are entering. This species will have “done” the behavior to the target (second) species.
- Select the behavior you observed.
- Select the target species. This is the species that was the target of the displacement or predation event.
- If the behavior was “unsuccessful,” meaning that the source species tried to but did not successfully capture (depredate) or displace the target species, click the Unsuccessful option.
- If you have comments you’d like to add to the interaction, type them into the comments field.
- Click on “Add Interaction.” The interaction will appear below under “Logged Interactions.”
- When you are done adding interactions for a given count, click on “Return to Your Data” to return to the Your Data home page.
More detailed instructions for each target behavior
When entering the behavioral interaction you observed, the source (first) species will have “done” the behavior to the target (second) species.
Entering a displacement observation
When you record a successful displacement behavior, make sure the dominant species–the species that chased off the subordinate species–is noted as the source species. Select this species in the first pull down menu. Then select “Displaced” from the list of possible behaviors. Then select the subordinate species in the target species pull down menu. The subordinate species is the species that was displaced by the dominant species. For example, if you saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker displace a Downy Woodpecker from a feeder, your input would look like this.
If the source species attempted to but was not able to displace the target species, click the Unsuccessful box.
Entering a predation observation
Predation events between birds often happen quickly and can be difficult to see well. You must be able to identify both species involved to record the event. Make sure that the source species you select is the species that killed or attempted to kill the target species. Select this species in the first pull down menu. The select “Depradated” from the list of possible behaviors. Then select the species killed or almost killed in the target species pull down menu. If you are confident that the source species killed and ate the target species, then you can report the event as a successful (from the predator’s perspective!) predation event. If the predation event was unsuccessful but you are confident in the identity of the predator and its intended prey target, enter the observation but click the Unsuccessful button. If you are unsure of the identity of either of the birds involved in the interaction, please do not enter your observation.
Download instructions and tally sheet
If you would like to print these instructions to refer to them when you are away from your computer, download the pdf file below. On the second page, you also will find a short tally sheet that you can use to keep track of your behavior observations.
Frequently asked questions
Q: How do I participate?
A: First, you need to be an active participant in FeederWatch. If you are not registered, sign up now.
Q: Are you only interested in interactions between different species of birds (interspecific), or are you also interested in interactions between the same species of birds (intraspecific)?
Q: I saw a behavior (for instance, sustained aggressive chasing) that does not seem to fit into one of the two categories you are collecting data for. What should I do?
A: Our list of behaviors is admittedly quite limited. As the project continues to grow we may add more behaviors, but for now your observations have to fit into one of the two behavioral categories: displaced or depredated. If the behavior you observed was not one of these things, keep your notes, and if we add that behavior as a category in the future, submit your observation then!
Q: Can I collect data after the FeederWatch season?
A: Although there is no way to submit observations you collect outside of your FeederWatch counts at the moment, if you participate in eBird and observed our target behaviors during an eBird count, you can email your observations to me along with your eBird checklist number, and I can add them to the eBird database for you. Or you can save your observations and perhaps add them to the eBird checklist in the future.