everywhere a sign

May 4, 2006

in Birds,Field work

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.

BirdsignsAs 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.


{ 11 comments }

Lanny May 4, 2006 at 9:42 am
Nuthatch May 4, 2006 at 10:13 am

Ha, how interesting. I've just picked up Word Fugitives which remarks on the vast number of phrases and words coined by Shakespeare, or at least first published by him.

Marty May 4, 2006 at 10:40 am

In rural areas these kinds of birds nest around farmsteads mainly, which aren't convenient to atlas because access isn't that easy to get. It would probably be a good thing to remind atlasers that they should at least try to include areas with structures in their surveys to ensure that house sparrows, pigeons and starlings get counted…probably would result in finding more phoebes too.

John May 4, 2006 at 1:47 pm

Many people think these three are a-holes.

I believe pigeons, starlings, and house sparrows all nest either on my street or in close proximity. House sparrows seem to like the backs of street light fixtures; starlings go for the holes in the traffic light poles. I have not seen where the pigeons are nesting, but they must be around somewhere, maybe on the tops of buildings.

pascal May 4, 2006 at 4:19 pm

Perhaps if we sent some A-holes to europe, we could help with their apparent dwindling numbers of european sparrows over on the other side of the pond…

I can think of a few that we could provide free of charge.

Nuthatch May 4, 2006 at 4:29 pm

Yes, indeed, we can export both some A-holes and Bushes. Sometimes, these are one and the same.

Pamela May 4, 2006 at 6:12 pm

I didn't get rock pigeons into my atlassing data until year 4 of 5, for the reason mentioned Marty's comment–lots of them nest in my rural square, but unless you're actually in someone's barnyard you almost never see them. Fortunately someone helping me in year 4 thought to look under a bridge and found a nest.

Clare May 4, 2006 at 6:53 pm

Blogmom, you are so naughty

Home Bird May 4, 2006 at 9:19 pm

It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it. You are too good, going to all that trouble checking out a-holes for those birds. I've been pleased to have escaped them in my new place in the pinelands. So far, I have seen 31 species here, and not one of any of those three. But you have my admiration for your dedication to accuracy.

Gwyn May 5, 2006 at 9:25 pm

Okay, this post had me holding my sides, not nice to do to me after eating Friday fish!

Could this be a new list? Birds nesting in a-holes? ROTFL

Lanny May 6, 2006 at 12:37 am

We all know how Ms. Nutty thinks; we're lucky she didn't focus on holes in the letter that comes between O and Q…

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