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Getting Grilled About Nests

2013 April 12
by Seth Inman

Photo by Sharon Obery, IL

As Karen pointed out yesterday here, in the past few years we’ve seen a fair number of nests found by contributors in their grills. And although at first it might seem surprising to learn that so many people are finding nests there (and, as you can see from their captions, the photographers are usually pretty shocked to open up their grill and encounter eggs or nestlings!), if you think a little about what certain bird species look for in a nesting location, grills actually make sense as nest homes. Why? Well, let’s review a couple facts that we’ve established in the past.

First off, many species will always nest in a protected hole, or cavity. The most common of these that you could find around your house include (but aren’t limited to) European Starlings, House Sparrows, House Wrens, and Eastern Bluebirds. Next, we should remember that the most important factor for a nest location is its capability to provide shelter and protection from predators. Does it sound like a grill would meet these requirements? Here’s some of their nest-worthy qualities:

  • They’re typically left out in the back yard with the top down (thereby creating a cavity).
  • A household grill normally isn’t used all winter or in the early spring, and so is seen by a bird as a good out-of-the-way cavity that hasn’t been taken yet.
  • Grills are raised off the ground and made of metal, meaning that they’re well-insulated and—especially since they’re often painted black—catch and absorb the sun’s rays, providing a little extra heat to keep eggs warm.

Photo by Debra French, PA

From this little list, the photos shared here, and our assumption that a majority of (sub)urban households own a grill, we can see that grills across the country can serve as perfect places for cavity nesters! One question that I still haven’t answered is why the birds in these photos often put so much extra nesting material all around the actual cup of the nest. There’s several potential explanations for this—but what do you think?

Get Ready to Get Funky!

2013 April 11
by Karen Purcell

Photo by Ian Taschner

Birds nest everywhere, right? But when was the last time you saw a nest? Have you taken a little time to look lately? Have you noticed any spring activity in your neighborhood?

Not all birds nest in trees or bushes. Birds can be incredibly creative and sometimes a little inconvenient in choosing their nesting sites!

The annual Funky Nests in Funky Places challenge starts May 1 and lasts for 6 weeks.

Please help the Cornell Lab learn more about where birds are nesting.
Win great prizes (Ipad, binoculars, bird aps and more!)

This challenge lets you show off your creativity! Entries may be photos, videos, artwork, poems, songs, or stories.

Photo by Jon Ridler

*Participate in the city, the suburbs, or rural locations
*Participate from ANYWHERE in the world
*All ages are welcome
*You don’t have to know ANYTHING about birds

We are not looking for professionals – the quality of the photos/videos isn’t important, we are looking for great stories/anecdotes!

Photo by Kathleen Petter

Where should you start looking?

Here are some of our most popular locations over the past few years: barbecue grills, stop lights, store signs, decorative wreaths, car tires, gardening tools, boots, sheds, mailboxes, clothes lines, potted plants, hanging flower baskets, tractors, bicycle helmets, on garden hoses, and hats.

Photo by Alan Krum

Apply Now: Measuring Environmental Education Outcomes

2013 April 4
by Marta del Campo

Photo courtesy of EECapacity

Environmental educators and program leaders are invited to join “Measuring Environmental Education Outcomes” (MEEO), a  project-based online learning community in May-October 2013, by EECapacity. This select group of 25 educators will work together to improve the way we measure different outcomes of EE programs. Application deadline: May 1, 2013

Details at:

Application form at: