Prevent bats becoming ill

White nose syndrome brochure

From White-nose

What can you do to help?

Avoid possible spread of WNS by humans

    • Stay out of caves and mines where bats are known – or suspected – to hibernate in all states.
      Honor cave closures and gated caves.

Avoid disturbing bats

  • Stay out of all hibernation sites when bats are hibernating (winter).

Be observant

  • Report unusual bat behavior to your state natural resource agency, including bats flying during the day when they should be hibernating (December through March) and bats roosting in sunlight on the outside of structures. More difficult to tell is unusual behavior when bats are not hibernating (April through September); however, bats roosting in the sunlight or flying in the middle of the day is unusual. Bats unable to fly or struggling to get off the ground is also unusual.

Take care of bats

  • Reduce disturbance to natural bat habitats around your home (e.g., reduce outdoor lighting, minimize tree clearing, protect streams and wetlands).
  • Construct homes for bats (see below for directions).
  • If bats are in your home and you don’t want them there, work with your local natural resource agency to exclude or remove them without hurting them after the end of the maternity season (see below for more information). The best time to exclude bats is when they aren’t in your home.

Learn about bats/teach about bats – bats are fascinating creatures and an important part of our environment.

  • Visit websites for organizations like Bat Conservation International
  • Attend educational programs or events celebrating bats, e.g.,
    • Indiana Bat Festival
    • Bat Fest, Austin, Texas


  • Some states and organizations sponsor bat emergence counts or other activities. Contact your state natural resource agency or local conservation groups for opportunities.

Provide homes for bats

Exclude or remove bats safely

Other opportunities

Attracting North American birds

This video from the USA is called Backyard Bird Watching – Northeast Ohio.

From the Audubon Society in the USA:

Want to Attract Beautiful Backyard Birds? Try These Tailored Recipes

Purple Finches prefer berries while chickadees go for pie crust. Learn the right combos for the right birds here.

This time of year, many a cook is scouring cookbooks, the internet, or their grandmother’s recipe cards for the best dishes to prepare and serve at the table. We would be remiss if we didn’t share some tried and true recipes for your backyard feeders as well. Just like that pecan pie is sure to get the kids back to the table, each recipe, cooked up by Madison Audubon Society, is tailored to your favorite feathered friends.

Northern Cardinal

Sunflower seeds
Crushed Peanuts
White Bread

Purple Finch

Sunflower Seeds
Crushed Peanuts


Sunflower Seeds
Crushed Peanuts
Melon Seeds

Black-capped Chickadee

Sunflower Seeds
Shelled or Crushed Peanuts
Pie Crust

Mourning Dove

Sunflower Seeds
Bread Crumbs
Cracked Corn

White-breasted Nuthatch

Sunflower and Pumpkin Seeds
Shelled or Crushed Peanuts

Blue Jay

Sunflower Seeds
Cracked Corn
Shelled or Crushed Peanuts

For tips on how to feed birds safely, check out these guidelines.

Ring-necked ducks video

This video, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA, says about itself:

Male Ring-necked Duck with females

5 June 2015

Ring-necked Ducks are diving ducks that are typically found in shallow wetlands and smaller lakes and ponds throughout North America. White markings on the bill, along with the black back of the male help separate them from the similar Greater and Lesser Scaup.

Rose-breasted grosbeak at feeder, video

This video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA says about itself:

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak at feeder

5 June 2015

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are common residents of woodland habitats in the northeastern U.S. and Canada during the spring and summer months. Stocky, and with an noticeably heavy bill, the males are striking with their contrasting black-and-white body and a bright rosy-red patch on the breast. This species occasionally visits backyard feeders for sunflower seeds.

I was lucky to see this species wintering in Costa Rica.

Common loons in winter, new research

This video is called Common loon (Gavia immer) nest.


Common Loons return to the same wintering site year after year


Researchers have long known that Common Loons return to the same nesting sites each spring. Now a team from the Biodiversity Research Institute, in Portland, Maine, has found that loons also return to the same locations each winter.

Led by James Paruk, a senior scientist in BRI’s Center for Loon Conservation, the group studied birds at four sites: Lake Pateros, a freshwater reservoir on the Columbia River in central Washington; Morro Bay, a coastal estuary on the central California coast; Barataria Bay, in southeastern Louisiana; and three reservoirs in western Maine. In Washington, California, and Louisiana, the researchers surveyed or recaptured banded loons. In Maine, they implanted satellite-tracking devices in six birds.

About 85 percent of adult loons returned to the same locations year after year, usually within two kilometers (1.25 miles) of previous wintering locations, Paruk and his colleagues report in The Condor: Ornithological Applications. One loon returned to Morro Bay for six consecutive winters, from 2004 through 2010.

The satellite-tracked birds from Maine wintered along a 745-mile stretch of the Atlantic coast. Males spent winters near islands off the coast of Maine, while females wintered south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, along the coast of New Jersey, and in Chincoteague Bay, Maryland.

The birds used areas no larger than 10-20 square km (3.8-7.7 square miles) for the duration of the winter. In midwinter, they molt their wing feathers, leaving the birds flightless for several weeks.

“We suspect that winter site fidelity developed in Common Loons, in part, because individuals that returned to the same area annually gained local knowledge (e.g., about prey resources and predator refugia) that increased their survival and fitness,” the authors say. “Given this, we expect that many adult Common Loons may overwinter in one location throughout their life.”

As the maps above from our “On the Move” column show, Common Loon can be found in most of North America at some point of the year. In summer, it occurs across Alaska, Canada, and the northern regions of the lower 48 states, where it nests on small islands in clear, clean lakes with an abundance of small fish. Subadults, represented by light purple squares south of Canada on the June map, may oversummer far south of the breeding range. By December, the species is found on inland lakes and reservoirs and along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts. Loons stage in high concentrations in the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico and along the Mississippi River and other large inland water bodies, often due to inclement weather systems. They migrate diurnally, and they fly quite high when they’re over land. Impressive movements in the fall occur after the passage of a cold front, when winds from the north aid their migration.

See eBird’s real-time distribution map for Common Loon.

Snowy owl news from North America

This video shows a snowy owl on a roof.

From in the USA:

Snowy Owls moving south—winter is coming!

27 October 2015

Thanks to Harry Potter, Snowy Owl is one of the most well-known birds in the world, and also almost universally adored. Who can say no to a massive, charismatic, white owl? Over the past few winters, much of North America has been graced by these ghostly owls, especially during the winter of 2013-2014. In that season, thousands of Snowy Owls irrupted further south than normal, particularly in the eastern United States.

Snowies were seen as far south as Florida (!), and a single bird even made it to Bermuda (!!). In Newfoundland, people were seeing hundreds of owls in a single birding outing, like this checklist with 138 individuals, and 55 from one viewpoint. Wow! We’re already seeing signs of another Snowy Owl invasion this fall, with early reports of birds far exceeding what was seen by this time in 2013. Will the numbers continue to grow throughout the winter? Only time will tell.

As illustrated by some of the above statistics, the winter of 2013-2014 was a glorious one if you like great birds. It seemed to be so good for Snowies that something along those lines might not happen again in the foreseeable future. But looking at the sightings coming into eBird from the Upper Midwest this past month, it seems like there is a chance that we could see a similar pattern this coming winter.

It is important to state up front that this opportunity for birders often reflects a very stressful time for the owls. Although it can be difficult to discern the precise reason why any owl may be turning up further south than normal, this reason is usually not to the benefit of the owl. Common reasons for these southern “irruptions” can include shortages of food further north in core wintering areas, or an excess of young birds that are driven from the better northern wintering areas to sub-par locations further south. Please take care when you encounter any of these owls, and avoid the temptation to get a frame-filling photograph or better look at the risk of stressing the owl. This is not to say that all photographers or birders are stressing the birds they encounter, but care should be taken with these owls, as well as with all birds.

Now that we’re all on the same page for how to respect an owl when you find one, how do you find one!? It can be simpler than you think—these owls turn up anywhere. Over the past four weeks, more than 50 Snowy Owls have been reported between eastern Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. One was even seen in southern Ontario as early as September 13th! Reports from more than 30 locations across Wisconsin have included some very unexpected places. Some of these, complete with photos, include a car roof in a parking lot; someone’s back deck; on a roadside sign; another car roof—someone’s truck; and even on a bridge railing at 10:45pm! Some of the Snowies even seem to like to take a spin on the water. You just never know.

During many of these irruption years, Snowy Owls will turn up in places like those shown above—downtown rooftops are a frequent haunt. The main thing you’re looking for is something that reasonably mimics the tundra—an open space that is usually barren or grassy, and has a source of prey. The prey could range from small mammals to sea ducks, the latter being hunted on the open ocean under cover of darkness. Snowy Owls are pretty amazing birds!

Although the above map of sightings this year so far is interesting, how does it differ from 2013 (the mega year), and 2014 (a year that still featured quite a few)? 2013 and 2014 are shown below, and have almost no reports through the end of October. Please report any Snowies that you find to eBird, to help us understand the movements of this mysterious species.

Although we won’t know what this winter holds until it truly arrives—it sure could be exciting! Combining this with exceptional numbers of Northern Saw-whet Owls that have already been reported in the Upper Midwest, it could be a winter filled to the brim with silent, graceful owls.

Swifts and swallows in North America, new study

This video from the USA says about itself:

Martin and Tree Swallow nest cameras

Look inside bird nests in Kentucky as of May 18, 2015. First part is a Purple Martin, last part is a Tree Swallow. Watch momma Tree Swallow feed her featherless, pink babies yummy bugs!

From Ecography journal:

Differences in spatial synchrony and interspecific concordance inform guild-level population trends for aerial insectivorous birds

3 NOV 2015


Many animal species exhibit spatiotemporal synchrony in population fluctuations, which may provide crucial information about ecological processes driving population change.

We examined spatial synchrony and concordance among population trajectories of five aerial insectivorous bird species: chimney swift Chaetura pelagica, purple martin Progne subis, barn swallow Hirundo rustica, tree swallow Tachycineta bicolor, and northern rough-winged swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis. Aerial insectivores have undergone severe guild-wide declines that were considered more prevalent in northeastern North America.

Here, we addressed four general questions including spatial synchrony within species, spatial concordance among species, frequency of declining trends among species, and geographic location of declining trends. We used dynamic factor analysis to identify large-scale common trends underlying stratum-specific annual indices for each species, representing population trajectories shared by spatially synchronous populations, from 46 yr of North American Breeding Bird Survey data. Indices were derived from Bayesian hierarchical models with continuous autoregressive spatial structures. Stratum-level spatial concordance among species was assessed using cross-correlation analysis.

Probability of long-term declining trends was compared among species using Bayesian generalized linear models. Chimney swifts exhibited declining trends throughout North America, with less severe declines through the industrialized Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions. Northern rough-winged swallows exhibited declining trends throughout the west. Spatial concordance among species was limited, the proportion of declining trends varied among species, and contrary to previous reports, declining trends were not more prevalent in the northeast. Purple martins, barn swallows, and tree swallows exhibited synchrony across smaller spatial scales. The extensive within-species synchrony and limited concordance suggest that population trajectories of these aerial insectivores are responding to large-scale but complex and species- and region-specific environmental conditions (e.g. climate, land use). A single driver of trends for aerial insectivores as a guild appears unlikely.