With the arrival of spring, I am again working on documenting breeding birds for our state breeding bird atlas. In my highly urban county, it seems reasonable that House Sparrow, European Starling, and Rock Pigeon are nesting in every quarter-township atlas “block.” In the same way that these species are not accurately counted on various censuses because people don’t find them interesting, they are not being confirmed as nesting in very many blocks. I’ve made it my mission to look for nests in every block they are needed.
Husband and I have found that strip malls are the best places to find these three species, sometimes all in one fell swoop [note to self: determine origin of phrase "one fell swoop."]. Invariably, these birds nest behind or, more often in, the letters of the store signs.
As you can see, a-holes are especially fruitful. With little experience, you can anticipate which species will be nesting based on the size of the letters. House Sparrows like tight a-holes, while pigeons like roomy a-holes. Starlings seem to go for holes larger than expected, ones that will accomodate all the crap they like to bring into the nest.
While this post is meant to be, er, tongue-in-cheek, checking store signs is, in fact, a decent atlas strategy for urban nesting birds.