watching_birds-photo Watching, Attracting and Feeding Birds in New York
with Sam Crowe

Nesting Material

Birds spend a great deal of energy in search of nesting materials. Make nesting materials available to make the job of nest building easier and to increase the use of nearby nest boxes. Wire suet feeders are ideal containers for nesting materials. The nesting materials can also be placed in the crooks of trees or on clotheslines.  Below is a list of materials that will help make nest building easier for the birds in your backyard.

* Hair, both pet and human
* Cotton
* Bristles from old paintbrushes
* Yarn or string (no longer than 4 inches in length)
* Stuffing from old mattresses
* Feathers

bird nesting material

Nesting material in an unused feeder.

It is very important that yarn and thread be no longer than four inches. Birds might become entangled in longer pieces.  Also, do not use lint from your dryer as it can contain harmful chemicals.

While it is important to provide birds with adequate nesting material, you should not place it in the nest box for the bird. Birds may think the box is occupied and search for other housing.

We invite you to come back often.  The home page is updated every week.


Meet the Great Horned Owl

Meet the owl behind the "hoot, hoot, hoot" call.

great horned owlExceptionally adaptable to a wide range of habitats and climates, the Great Horned Owl is a very widespread nocturnal predator.  It is found throughout the continental United States, much of Canada and into much of Alaska.

Its acute vision and hearing, and its powerful talons, make it a formidable hunter. Great Horned Owls are known to capture mammals and birds, as well as reptiles and even fish. They are among the few animals to prey on skunks.

Great Horned Owls typically roost during the day. If discovered by other birds such as crows, jays, or chickadees, they are often mobbed by a noisy group. Other owls are no match for the Great Horned Owl, and they typically stop calling if a Great Horned Owl is heard nearby.

Great Horned Owls nest very early, beginning in January in many areas.

The call is a rhythmic series of "hoos," often heard in movies,

Birding Quick Hits

The Northern Cardinal has been selected as the state bird for 7 states, the most of any species.  The Western Meadowlark comes in a close 2nd, having been selected by 6 states. What may be the worst choice for a state bird was made by Delaware, which selected a chicken (Delaware Blue Hen).

Learn abut the American Redstart.
American Redstart

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I try to raise a baby or fledgling bird?

Despite your feelings, raising a young bird is a daunting and usually unsuccessful task that should not normally be undertaken. Young birds must be fed every 15 to 30 minutes. Even if you are successful in raising the bird until it can fly, the battle is not yet over for the young bird. Adult birds teach their young many things, from how to find food to how to avoid predators. Left on its own, without the support of its parents, the newly fledged bird will be greatly handicapped in its struggle to survive.

A special note and warning:
Only licensed wildlife specialists are authorized to handle most lost, sick or injured birds. Technically, it is illegal for you to raise most native bird species without the proper state and federal licenses.

If you are unable to return the young bird to its nest, or to a nest you created, your best approach is to contact a nearby rehabilitation center. If there is not a center near you, try contacting your state fish and wildlife agency or local zoo for additional advice. If you still feel that you must try to care for a baby bird, here are some things to keep in mind.

Think like a bird!
Baby birds with few feathers should be kept warm.  Do not overheat with direct light from a heat lamp.

Most young song birds are fed a diet of soft insects and spiders.
Bread and milk will not work. Some birds, like goldfinches, regurgitate a seed porridge.  You have to know which species you have to know what to feed it.

Bird identification

Learning to identify the birds you see is a fun and rewarding experience.  If you are a novice at identifying birds we have several options for you.

50 common New York birdsNifty Fifty Guides:  Our Nifty Fifty Guide to the Birds of New York is available on-line and in print.   It contains 25 common backyard birds and 25 additional common birds found in New York.  Purchase the print version.

The online version is shown below. Click on a corner to turn the page. has multiple resources for identifying a bird you have seen as well as information on improving your identification skills.   You can also send us an image on the web site and we will try to identify it for you.