As we head into July and more eggs hatch, your focus should increasingly be on picking up those confirmed codes, with behaviors like CF (Carrying Food), FL (Recently Fledged Young), and FY (Feeding Young).
Here are some tips for a few of the easiest species you can use to pad your block totals:
10. Common Grackle. A conspicuous bird that’s often found in towns, sometimes the fledglings aren’t super obvious, but look for the birds that are dull brown, without any gloss on them. It’s also an easy bird to spot CN (Carrying Nest Material) or CF.
9. Chipping Sparrow. Chipping Sparrows are another species that is widespread and likes to frequent suburban areas. Family groups can be are quite noisy with chipping (imagine that). Beware that their young initially look a little different than adults.
8. Eastern Phoebe. In forested blocks, phoebes will often nest on the only building or bridge in the area. Check outhouses, sheds, cabins, pavilions, and bridges for their nests, which often look mossy. This is a species that you can use UN (Used Nest) on, if you find a nest that was used previously but is not currently occupied.
7. Waterfowl. Canada Geese and Mallards are two easy confirmations in many blocks with suitable habitat. Wetland areas can be very productive for atlasing, not just because they are valuable habitat, but also because you have good visibility. All you need to do is catch a glimpse of a duckling with a parent and you’re up to the FL code. (Though beware later in the season, if birds are out of downy yellow plumage, you should carefully consider whether you think they hatched in the block).
6. Killdeer. Killdeer are perhaps the most conspicuous species to perform a DD (Distraction display) and perform their broken-wing display if you get too close to the nest or young. Check open areas, particularly ones with gravel that allow them to camouflage their nest. And if you see multiple Killdeer standing around later in the season, scrutinize them to see if some of them are actually this year’s young.
5. Swallows. Swallows are easy to confirm because they have very specific nest site preferences, and the nests are often quite visible. Tree Swallows are generally in open country in bluebird-type nestboxes. Bank and N. Rough-winged are often in sand banks (though Rough-winged can be in other crevices in harder substrates). Cliff and Barn are often under bridges, barns, or other buildings. And Purple Martins prefer multi-roomed martin houses. If you see a swallow swooping around, look around to see if you can figure out where it might be nesting. ON (Occupied Nest) is often the best code to use for incubating or brooding swallows if you can’t see nest contents.
4. Song Sparrow. Song Sparrows have a distinctive weak-sounding chip note that is helpful to learn, and it seems like whenever they are carrying food and they see you, they can’t help but start chipping like crazy. If you hear this noise, wait around a few minutes and it’s likely one will pop up CF.
3. Red-winged Blackbird. While it’s not often easy to find the nest of a Red-winged Blackbird, because they nest in marshes with good visibility, it’s fairly easy to get a confirmation. If you have birds perched on cattails, set up to wait for 5 minutes and it’s likely you’ll see a bird carrying food to the nest or young. Fledglings are also often seen, which appear somewhat similar to females.
2. European Starling. Noisy and conspicuous, it’s fairly easy to find family groups with the paler fledged young anywhere around human habitation.
1. American Robin. They love to nest on the sides of buildings, are often found nesting in yards, and their spotted young are quite conspicuous. They are also easy to find CN. There’s probably one nesting near your house right now, did you atlas it yet?