Q - I just saw a new bird. How can I figure out what it is?
A - Field guides are a great resource for birdwatchers, from beginners to experts. Almost all of them list species in taxonomic order – based on who is related to whom – and not by physical characteristics such as size or color. There are a couple of online resources and an app we recommend to help you identify a mystery bird, like that yellow bird that just visited your feeder.
- Search the birds of North America by attributes including head color or flight pattern at WhatBird.
- Learn bird identification skills at Cornell’s All About Birds.
- Download the Merlin app from Cornell - Free, instant bird ID help for 4,500+ birds for North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Q - What’s pounding on my gutters and why?
A - It’s almost certainly a woodpecker, as you may have guessed. It’s probably a male woodpecker trying to attract a female and advertising his territory to other males. This is a woodpecker’s version of singing – like that noisy male American Robin in your front yard – an activity that peaks in spring. In its natural habitat, a woodpecker seeks a hollow branch that will amplify his song as far as possible. In the urban environment, nothing beats metal gutters or chimneys! Learn more at “Flicker Attack.”
Q - What do I do if I find a sick or injured bird?
A - If you have found a young bird on the ground, it may have fallen out of its nest. Don’t "rescue" it immediately, but watch it from a distance for a while, making sure it's safe from cats and other predators. One of its parents may still be feeding it. If the bird is clearly injured (e.g., bleeding, with a drooping wing, etc.) please contact your local wildlife rehabilitator and ask for assistance. They may ask you to immobilize the bird and drop it off at their facility. Start your search at HumaneSociety.org.
Q - My feeder is being visited by a sick bird. What should I do?
A - A bird that sits at a feeder for long periods of time with feathers fluffed up and eyes partially closed may be diseased. If a sick bird is visiting your feeder, the rest of the birds at your feeder may be at risk. Please take your feeder down, discard the contents, and wash the feeder in a solution of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry. Keep your feeder down for a week or two before you put it back up again. Don’t worry – the birds have alternate sources for food. Browse other resources from KeepingBackyardBirdsSafe and Cornell.
Q - What do I do if I find a dead bird?
A - Many natural history museums or education facilities welcome such birds for their collections. If the bird is in good condition, place it in a zip-loc freezer bag with a note about where and when it was collected. No paper towels or tissue, please; the paper can stick to the feathers and make recovery difficult. (Always wear gloves when handling dead animals.) Note the species if you can plus the date and the location where you found it. Then contact your local museum or educational facility to learn if they are in need of additional specimens.
Q - A bird just hit my window. What should I do?
A - If the bird is still alive but motionless, it may simply be stunned. Place the bird is a safe place where it is out of the way of predators. If it is cold or wet outside, try to find a location where it can stay warm and dry. It may recover on its own. If the bird needs further assistance, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator. (See HumaneSociety.org)
If the bird dies, please see the answer above. Learn more about birds and glass.
Q - How long does a robin live? Do the same birds nest in my yard, year after year?
A - Check out two BirdNote stories, How Long Does a Robin Live? and Is It the Same Robin?
Q - How do I attract hummingbirds to my back yard?
A - Including native plants and shrubs in your garden is a good way to start. Learn more at "A Natural Feast for Hummingbirds."
Q - What’s with all the crows?
A - If it’s winter time and you see a large flock of crows flying overhead in the late afternoon, you are witnessing crows heading toward their night roost. Up to 40,000 crows in one space is not uncommon. Why do they do this? It could be for warmth, protection, and communication. Learn more at "The Crows' Night Roost."
Q - I saw a live bird – or found a dead one – with a leg-band or wing-tag. Where can I report it?
A - You can report your band sighting online at the United States Geological Survey website.
Q - How can I make a birdhouse?
A - Birdhouses can be made in many different shapes and sizes, but the important part is to make the entrance hole 1-1/8 inches, exactly one and one-eighth inches. This size excludes non-native birds but allows chickadees, nuthatches, and wrens in. Listen to the story “The Perfect Nestbox” and find many birdhouse plans here.
Q - How can I create a bird-friendly garden or back yard?
A - Learn about safe backyard birdfeeding, gardening and more. Or get more ideas at All About Birds.
Is your question still not answered? Feel free to contact us.