Swallow Week 2024: Bank Swallow

Discover the Interesting World of the Bank Swallow

Birdorable Bank Swallows

Today we're introducing a new member to our Birdorable family in honor of Swallow Week: it's our Birdorable Bank Swallow.

The Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) is a small, agile bird with a distinctive brown back, white underparts, and a unique band across its chest. This bird, the smallest swallow in North America, holds a special place in the hearts of bird enthusiasts for its remarkable characteristics and behaviors. Let's dive into some interesting facts about the Bank Swallow, its longevity, conservation status, diet, habitat, and nesting habits.

Bank Swallows are highly sociable during their breeding season. They nest in large colonies that can include hundreds, sometimes thousands, of individual nests. 

These birds are expert flyers, catching insects mid-air with their mouths. Their flight is fast, with quick wing beats and sudden turns and dives.  Despite their small size, like most swallow species they are long-distance migrants, wintering in South America and breeding across North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa.

Bank Swallow in Montrose Beach, Chicago

Bank Swallow at Montrose Beach, Chicago by Raed Mansour (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Bank Swallow populations have been declining in several areas due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and challenges due to climate change. They are particularly vulnerable because they rely on undisturbed riverbanks and sandy cliffs for nesting. The species is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, but the declines in some regions have raised conservation concerns.

Bank Swallows feed almost exclusively on flying insects, including flies, mosquitoes, mayflies, and beetles. They catch their prey in flight, using their acrobatic flying skills to maneuver and capture insects. This diet makes them valuable for controlling insect populations, including agricultural pests and disease-carrying mosquitoes.

The Bank Swallow's name comes from its unique nesting habits; it lives and breeds primarily in sandy banks along rivers, lakes, and quarries. These habitats provide the vertical surfaces necessary for the birds to excavate their nesting tunnels. Across their Old World range, Bank Swallows are known as Collared Sand Martins.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Bank Swallow's life is its nesting behavior. They dig tunnels in vertical sand or dirt banks, often forming large colonies with many nests close together. They use their specially adapted small conical bills, feet, and wings to dig out their burrows. Each tunnel, typically 2-3 feet deep, ends in a nesting chamber where the female lays 4-5 white eggs.

Both parents share in feeding the chicks, which fledge about three weeks after hatching. The communal aspect of their nesting sites provides some protection against predators, although the nests are still vulnerable to disturbances and predation.

The Bank Swallow is a remarkable bird with fascinating behaviors, from its long-distance migrations to its unique nesting habits. Despite facing challenges from habitat loss and other threats, conservation efforts aim to ensure that these agile flyers continue to grace our skies and riversides for generations to come.

Flying Sand Martins in Portugal

European Sand Martins (Bank Swallows) in Portugal by Luiz Lapa (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Cute Bank Swallow Gifts

Swallow Week 2024: Swallow Facts

Interesting Facts About Swallows, Martins, and Saw-wings

This week we're celebrating Swallows! Swallows, along with Martins and Saw-wings, belong to the songbird family Hirundinidae. There are about 90 species in this widespread family. We've got a handful here in the Birdorable family, and we'll be adding a few more as our celebration of Swallows rolls on this week. Today, we'll share some interesting facts about this fascinating family of birds.

Flying Birdorable Barn Swallows

Barn Swallows

Masters of Flight

Swallows, martins, and saw-wings are known for their exceptional flying skills. They have streamlined bodies, long pointed wings, and short bills, all of which enable them to perform acrobatic maneuvers in the air. These adaptations are crucial for catching insects while flying.

Long-Distance Migrants

Many species within this family are long-distance migrants. For example, the Barn Swallow, one of the most widespread species of swallow globally, migrates from northern breeding grounds in Europe and North America to wintering areas in Central and South America and southern Africa, covering thousands of miles in their yearly migrations.

Global Distribution

Swallows are found almost everywhere in the world (making them cosmopolitan), from the Arctic to the tip of South America. Different species have adapted to a wide range of habitats, including open countryside, wetlands, and even urban areas.

Muddy Nesting Habits

Swallows and martins have diverse nesting habits, and a lot of them involve mud or dirt. While many species construct mud nests on man-made structures or natural sites like cliffs, others, like the Bank Swallow (or Sand Martin), excavate tunnels in sandy banks or cliffs. The intricacy of their nests and the communal nesting habits of some species, like the Purple Martin, showcase their complex social structures and adaptability.

European Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) in Portugal by Luiz Lapa (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Communication and Social Behavior

Swallows tend to be very social and often form large flocks during migration and in their wintering grounds. They communicate with a wide range of vocalizations and songs, which play a role in social cohesion, territory defense, and mating.

Insect Control

Swallows, martins, and saw-wings consume large quantities of insects, including mosquitoes, flies, and beetles, making them invaluable for natural pest control. Their predilection for feeding in flight means they play a critical role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems by controlling insect populations.

Cultural Significance

Swallows and martins have been symbols of hope, spring, and renewal in various cultures around the world. The return of the swallows is celebrated in different parts of the world as a herald of spring, most famously at Mission San Juan Capistrano in California. Tune in tomorrow to learn more about the Swallows of San Juan Capistrano!


Swallows can live relatively long lives for birds of their size. The average lifespan across species is around four to five years, but some individuals have been known to live over a decade. The current longevity record for the family belongs to the Barn Swallow with a record lifespan of 15 years and 11 months. The longest known lived Purple Martin was 13 years and 9 months old. Like most longevity information for wild birds, these records are known from bird banding programs. The longevity record for the Tree Swallow is 12 years and 1 month, for the Cliff Swallow is 11 years and 10 months, and for the Cave Swallow is 12 years and 2 months.

Tree Swallows by Michael Mulqueen (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Survival Challenges

Despite their widespread presence, longevity, and adaptability, some swallow and martin species face threats from habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Changes in insect populations due to pesticide use have a major impact on food availability, posing challenges to their survival.

Remarkable Adaptability

Swallows and martins exhibit a wide range of adaptations to different habitats. From the Barn Swallow, comfortable in urban and rural areas alike, to the Alpine Swift, which can be found at high altitudes, these birds have colonized a diverse array of environments across the globe.

National Recognition

The Barn Swallow is the national bird of two countries in Europe: Austria and Estonia. Across much of Europe, the Barn Swallow is seen as a symbol of rebirth, as it returns to the region to breed in the springtime. Yes, the national bird of these two countries does not live there full time!

Barn Swallows at Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin by chumlee10 (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Birdorable Swallow Gifts

Species Profile

The Blue-fronted Parrot: Nature's Skilled Mimic

Birdorable Turquoise-fronted Amazon

When we think of parrots, one thing that often comes to mind is their incredible ability to mimic human speech. Among the avian masters of mimicry, the Blue-fronted Parrot, also known as the Blue-fronted Amazon, stands out with its vibrant personality, striking appearance, and, most notably, its remarkable vocal talents.

Native to the woodlands and forests of South America, the Blue-fronted Parrot boasts a dazzling green body plumage that contrasts with a striking blue forehead and yellow markings around its beak and eyes. Their vocal abilities truly set them apart. Capable of learning an extensive vocabulary, these birds can reproduce sounds and phrases with astonishing clarity, engaging their human companions in a unique form of interaction.

The Blue-fronted Parrot's capacity for mimicry is not merely a party trick; it's a window into their high level of intelligence and social complexity. These birds are highly social creatures, living in flocks in the wild, which is thought to be a factor in their advanced communicative abilities. In a domestic setting, they often view their human caretakers as part of their flock, leading to strong bonds and interactivity.

Their intelligence is matched by their personality. Blue-fronted Parrots, also known as Turquoise-fronted Amazons, are known for their playful, curious, and sometimes mischievous nature. They thrive on social interaction, whether it's with their human families or other birds, making them excellent companions for those who can dedicate time to engage with them.

👉 However, potential owners should be aware that these birds require a lot of attention, mental stimulation, and social interaction to stay happy and healthy. They are not just pets; they are members of the family, requiring a lifelong commitment as they can live for 40-60 years, or even longer!

Researchers study these parrots to understand not just their mimicry skills but also their problem-solving capabilities, memory, and emotional intelligence. These studies have profound implications, challenging our understanding of animal intelligence and contributing to broader discussions on conservation, welfare, and the ethical treatment of birds.

The Blue-fronted Parrot's ability to mimic human speech, combined with their vibrant personality and intelligence, makes them a fascinating subject of study and interest. Whether engaging in mimicry, displaying their curious nature, or simply being a part the natural world, these parrots embody the beauty and complexity of avian life.

Birdorable Blue-fronted Parrot Gifts

Birdorable Attwater's Prairie-Chickens

Nestled in the coastal prairie of Texas, the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge represents a vital sanctuary for one of North America's most critically endangered birds. The Attwater's Prairie-Chicken, a species that once thrived across the vast grasslands of Texas and Louisiana, now faces the brink of extinction, its numbers dwindling due to habitat loss, predation, and other environmental pressures. However, thanks to concerted conservation efforts, there's hope for this iconic species.

The Attwater's Prairie-Chicken is a subspecies of the Greater Prairie-Chicken. With its distinctive booming calls and elaborate mating dances, it is not just a bird but a symbol of the prairie ecosystem. The refuge, established in 1972, spans over 10,000 acres of native coastal prairie, a rare habitat that has been largely lost to agriculture and urban development. This protected area is crucial for the survival of the prairie chicken, providing a haven where it can breed, feed, and roam freely.

Conservation efforts at the refuge are multifaceted, addressing the complex challenges that the species faces. One of the key strategies has been habitat management, including controlled burns and grazing. These practices mimic the natural disturbances that once maintained the open prairie landscape, promoting the growth of native grasses and forbs essential for the prairie chicken's diet and nesting.

Breeding programs have also been pivotal in the fight to save the Attwater's Prairie-Chicken. The refuge collaborates with zoos and conservation organizations to breed birds in captivity, which are then released into the wild to bolster the population. These efforts have seen some success, with the number of birds in the wild showing occasional increases, highlighting the potential for recovery with sustained effort.

Public education and community engagement are other vital components of the conservation strategy. The refuge offers tours, educational programs, and special events to raise awareness about the bird's plight and the importance of prairie conservation. By fostering a connection between people and this unique ecosystem, the refuge aims to build support for conservation efforts that extend beyond its boundaries.

Despite these efforts, the road to recovery for the Attwater's Prairie-Chicken is fraught with challenges. The species' survival is still far from assured, with threats like climate change and continued habitat fragmentation looming large. Yet, the work being done at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge offers a beacon of hope. It shows what can be achieved when conservationists, government agencies, and the public come together to save a species from the edge of extinction.

Attwater's Prairie Chicken Festival – April 6-7, 2024

Get ready to mark your calendars for an opportunity to observe one of North America's most endangered birds and experience the uniqueness of the Texas coastal prairie at the Attwater's Prairie Chicken Festival. This festival is returning this year to the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge in Texas on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 April, 2024! The event hours are 7am to 2pm and offers a viewing platform, van tours, prairie plant tour and booths. For more information check out the website of Friends of Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge.

Attwater's Prairie Chicken Festival poster

Birdorable Attwater Prairie Chicken Gifts

Birdorable Burrowing Owl in hole

Many countries have an official national bird. For example, the national bird of Belgium is the Common Kestrel, and the national bird of Israel is the Hoopoe. All U.S. states also have official birds. But did you know that there are even some cities that have their own official bird?

Burrowing Owl in Florida by Pete Markham (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Cape Coral, Florida, a city celebrated for its picturesque canals and vibrant wildlife, is home to a particularly charming and quirky resident: the Burrowing Owl. This pint-sized owl has not only captivated the hearts of locals and visitors alike but has also earned the distinguished title of the official city bird. The Burrowing Owl's unique lifestyle, adorable appearance, and the conservation efforts surrounding it make for a fun story that intertwines the natural world with community pride.

Unlike most owls who are known for their nocturnal habits and preference for dense forests, the Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) stands out for its diurnal (daytime) activity patterns and unusual habitat choice. As the name implies, these owls are ground-dwellers, favoring open, treeless areas where they make their homes in burrows. These burrows are not only a place of residence but also serve as protection against predators and extreme weather conditions. This adaptation to burrow living is a remarkable trait that sets the Burrowing Owl apart from its avian relatives.

Measuring about 7.5 to 11 inches in length, the Burrowing Owl is easily recognizable by its long legs, round head, and big, bright eyes. Their presence adds a unique charm to the landscapes of Cape Coral, where they can be found standing at the entrance to their burrows or perched on nearby posts during the day.

The Burrowing Owl diet mainly consists of insects, small mammals, and occasionally small reptiles and amphibians, playing a crucial role in controlling local pest populations.

Photo of Burrowing Owls in Cape Coral, Florida

Burrowing Owls in Cape Coral, Florida

Cape Coral's designation of the Burrowing Owl as its official city bird shows the community's awareness and commitment to wildlife conservation. The city boasts one of the largest populations of Burrowing Owls in Florida, thanks in part to the efforts of local conservation groups, city ordinances protecting the birds, and educational programs aimed at raising awareness about their habitat requirements and threats.

The challenges facing the Burrowing Owl are not insignificant. Habitat loss due to development, pesticide use, and human disturbance are ongoing threats to their population. However, Cape Coral has implemented several measures to protect these birds. These include creating protected nesting sites, enforcing regulations that prohibit the destruction of burrows, and organizing an annual Burrowing Owl Festival to celebrate and raise funds for their conservation. These efforts highlight the importance of community involvement in preserving natural habitats and the species that depend on them.

The Burrowing Owl's status as the official city bird of Cape Coral encourages residents and visitors to engage with nature respectfully and responsibly. Moreover, it underscores the importance of urban areas in contributing to the conservation of species and the health of ecosystems.

Birdorable Burrowing Owl in hole

Cape Coral Burrowing Owl Gifts from Birdorable

See the perfect blend of style and nature with our original Birdorable Cape Coral Florida design available on different apparel styles from Amazon and Zazzle. A fun bird-themed addition to any wardrobe, this graphic design features our cute Birdorable Burrowing Owl with vibrant orange and green lettering that spells out "CAPE CORAL FLORIDA," celebrating the city's affinity with these charming birds. Choose from a variety of apparel styles, colors, and sizes to find your perfect fit. Whether you're a local resident, a visitor who has fallen in love with the area's wildlife, or a birding enthusiast, this design is a fun way to show your appreciation for Cape Coral's natural beauty.

Birdorable Cinnamon Teal

Have you ever found yourself mesmerized by the vibrant colors and graceful movements of birds during a leisurely stroll or while exploring the great outdoors? If so, there’s one bird in particular that might just steal your heart – the Cinnamon Teal. This small, but unmistakably striking dabbling duck, is a visual treat, especially for bird enthusiasts and those of us who find solace in the tranquility of nature.

Predominantly found in the western parts of North and South America, the Cinnamon Teal is perfectly adapted to a life predominantly on water. It thrives in shallow freshwater environments like marshes, ponds, and lakes where the vegetation is lush and abundant. When it comes to migration, the Cinnamon Teal exhibits a somewhat modest approach compared to other migratory birds that undertake vast journeys across continents. The northern populations of this species migrate southward to enjoy the warmer climates of Mexico and Central America during the winter months. Meanwhile, the southern populations might only move short distances to locate the ideal wintering habitat.

Cinnamon Teal photo

Cinnamon Teal by Channel City Camera Club (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

The mating season marks a special time in the life of the Cinnamon Teal. Males court females with a variety of displays and calls in a bid to win their affection. Once a pair is bonded, the female embarks on the critical task of nest-building. Carefully selecting a spot on the ground hidden among dense vegetation near water, she lays her clutch of 8 to 12 eggs. This secluded nesting site not only serves as a cozy cradle for the eggs but also shields them from potential predators. Upon hatching, the ducklings are immediately ready to face the world, precocial and eager to follow their mother to water, embarking on their first adventure in life.

For birdwatchers and nature lovers, the Cinnamon Teal is a delightful bird to observe. Its distinct coloration and behavior make it a favorite among birding enthusiasts. Whether you're an experienced birdwatcher or someone who just enjoys the splendor of nature, witnessing a Cinnamon Teal glide across the water reminds us of the pure delight birds add to our lives. So, next time you’re near a wetland or a marsh, keep an eye out for the Cinnamon Teal. Who knows? You might just have one of those unforgettable encounters that remind you why you fell in love with nature in the first place. Have you ever experienced such a moment?

Photo of Cinnamon Teal at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson, Arizona

Cinnamon Teal at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson, Arizona, by Katja Schulz (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Cute Cinnamon Teal Gifts

Cute Birdorable Burrowing Parakeets on a cliff in Argentina

Burrowing Parakeets in Argentina

Birds are known for their diverse nesting habits, constructions, and detail, from the basic yet functional pressed grass nests of American Robins, to the simple pile of sticks that Mourning Doves call nests, to the complex and intricately woven hanging nests of Baltimore Orioles.

Today we'll look at one bird species that takes an entirely different, fairly unique approach to nest-building, creating a living space that is as unique as it is fascinating. The Burrowing Parakeet, also known as the Burrowing Parrot or Patagonian Conure, has an extraordinary underground nesting habit, as well as a special ability at self- thermoregulation.

Burrowing Parakeets by Francesco Veronesi (CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed)

Found mainly in South America, particularly in Argentina and Chile, these medium-sized, long-tailed parakeets have adapted to a lifestyle that is quite uncharacteristic of what one might expect from such a bird. Instead of taking to the trees, the Burrowing Parakeet digs its home into the sides of cliffs, riverbanks, or even man-made structures, where soil conditions allow. These are not mere holes in the ground but elaborate tunnel systems that can extend several meters deep and connecting with other birds in the nesting colony.

The choice of underground burrows as nesting sites offers several advantages. Firstly, it provides excellent protection from predators, as the entrances are typically small and located in places that are difficult for other animals to access. Secondly, these burrows offer a stable environment that shields the birds from the harsh weather conditions typical of their natural habitats, such as extreme heat during the day and cold at night. But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these burrows is how they aid in the bird's unique thermoregulation ability.

The Burrowing Parakeet has an interesting way of maintaining its body temperature compared to extreme cold temperature changes in its environment. Their underground burrows have a relatively constant temperature, significantly cooler than the outside air during hot days and warmer during cold nights. This natural insulation allows the birds to conserve energy that would otherwise be spent on regulating their body temperature through physiological means. In addition to the temperature benefits provided by the burrow, these little birds also increase their weight and decrease their metabolism to both conserve energy and withstand food shortages.

Breeding season sees the burrows come to life, as they become the center of the Burrowing Parakeet's social and reproductive activities. Each burrow becomes a nursery, where females lay their eggs and couples raise their young. The community aspect of these burrows is also noteworthy, with multiple pairs often nesting in close proximity, creating a bustling underground neighborhood. This social structure not only helps in defending against predators but also plays an important role in the learning and development of young parakeets, as they interact with not just their parents but also other members of their community.

Burrowing Parakeets by Dominic Sherony (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Birdorable Burrowing Parakeet Gift Ideas

Singing Common Yellowthroat

The melody of birdsong, weaving through a thick forest or a productive meadow, often evokes a feeling of joy. While this sentiment is charming, the true reasons behind avian vocalizations are much more complex and fascinating.. To say that birds simply sing because they're happy is, in fact, a beautiful but misleading myth.

The reality is that bird song serves a multitude of purposes, often far removed from emotional expression. While some species may indeed associate certain melodic phrases with positive experiences, the primary motivation for singing falls into three broad categories: territory defense, mate attraction, and communication.

Bird song often acts as a potent territorial declaration. Picture a male American Robin perched on a branch, belting out a series of rich, melodic phrases. This isn't simply a serenade; it's a powerful message to other males, a kind of auditory fence marking the boundaries of his domain. The complexity of the song, its volume, and even its timing all play a role in deterring intruding males and asserting dominance.

Many birds utilize song as a powerful tool for attracting mates. Imagine a female Worm-eating Warbler captivated by the sweet, high-pitched trill of a nearby male. The more impressive the song, the more likely he is to win the favor of a potential mate.

Bird song often functions as a complex communication system within flocks and families. Different chirps and calls can convey a range of information, from warnings about predators to the location of food sources. Consider a Black-capped Chickadee alerting its flock to a nearby hawk with a sharp, high-pitched call. This vocal exchange plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and survival of the group.

While the emotional resonance of birdsong remains undeniable, it's good to understand that this vocal tapestry is woven from the threads of necessity, competition, and social interaction. So let's consider the myth "Birds Sing Because They're Happy" to be busted!

Next time you find yourself captivated by the music of birds, remember the meaning that lies beneath the surface of the beautiful song. Birds may not be singing simply for joy, but for survival, for reproduction, for connection.

Birdwatcher spotting 1 Blue Jay and 1 Painted Bunting

Every year, bird enthusiasts across the globe eagerly anticipate the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), a citizen science project that offers everyone, from the casual bird watcher to the avid ornithologist, an opportunity to contribute to the understanding and conservation of bird populations. Scheduled to take place February 16 to 19, 2024, this event harnesses the power of community observation to create a real-time snapshot of global bird populations, aiding conservation efforts worldwide.

The GBBC was launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, and it has grown into a global event with participation spanning over 100 countries. The count encourages people to observe and record the birds they see in a specified period in February, using just their backyard, local park, or any outdoor space as a starting point.

Why Participate?

Participation in the GBBC is more than just a weekend activity; it's a contribution to a global database used by scientists to monitor the health of bird populations, understand challenges in bird conservation, and take steps towards protecting birds and their habitats. It's an opportunity to connect with nature, learn more about the birds in your local area, and join a global community of conservationists.

How to Get Involved

  1. Mark Your Calendar: Set aside some time between February 16 and 19, 2024, to watch birds. Even 15 minutes of birdwatching can provide valuable data.

  2. Plan Your Spot: Whether it's your backyard, a local park, or even a balcony with a feeder, find a place where you can quietly observe and identify birds.

  3. Get the Right Tools: Download the eBird mobile app or print out a bird checklist for your area. Familiarize yourself with common bird species you might see. Binoculars and a field guide or a bird identification app can enhance your experience.

  4. Count and Record: Keep track of the types and numbers of birds you see during your observation period. Be sure to note the highest number of each species seen together at one time to avoid double-counting.

  5. Submit Your Observations: Enter your findings on the eBird website or through the eBird mobile app. Your data will become part of a global dataset available for research and conservation efforts.

Birds to Watch for in Your Backyard

The beauty of the GBBC is that every bird counts, from the most common to the rarest visitor. Here are a few species you might encounter, depending on your location:

  • Northern Cardinal: These vibrant red birds are a staple in many North American backyards and are easily identifiable by their color and distinctive crest.

  • Blue Jay: Known for their bright blue plumage and loud calls, Blue Jays are often found in wooded areas but frequently visit feeders.

  • American Robin: A sign of spring for many (and a sign of winter for us here in Florida), robins can be seen year-round in many parts of the U.S. Look for their reddish-orange breast and listen for their cheerful song.

  • Dark-eyed Junco: Often called "snowbirds," these small, slate-gray birds are common winter visitors to feeders across North America.

  • Anna's Hummingbird: In the warmer climates of the West Coast, you might spot these tiny, vibrant birds, recognizable by their iridescent green and pink feathers.

Making Your Count Count

Participation in the GBBC is not only about counting birds but also about being part of a collective effort to protect them. Here are some ways to make your participation even more impactful:

  • Educate Others: Share the event with friends and family. The more people participate, the more data can be collected.

  • Make It an Event: Organize a birdwatching group or event in your community. This can be a great way to meet fellow bird enthusiasts and make the count an enjoyable social activity.

  • Be Consistent: Participate in the GBBC annually. Year-over-year data is invaluable for tracking trends in bird populations.

  • Stay Engaged: The GBBC is just one of many citizen science projects you can participate in. Stay involved with local birding groups or online communities to continue contributing to bird conservation.

The Bigger Picture

The data collected during the GBBC provides critical insights into bird population health and trends. For example, observations can help scientists understand how birds are adapting to climate change, the impact of habitat loss, and the effects of disease on bird populations. This information is crucial for developing conservation strategies and policies to protect birds and their habitats.

The Great Backyard Bird Count represents a unique convergence of citizen science, wildlife conservation, and global collaboration. By dedicating a few hours to observing and recording the birds around us, we can all play a part in a global movement to protect our feathered friends and the environments they inhabit

Birder observing flying Birdorable Razorbills

Birder spotting 4 non-breeding Razorbills

Valentine's Day Bird Term: Billing

Love Is in the Air: Understanding Billing in Birds for Valentine's Day

Birdorable Atlantic Puffins on a cliff in Iceland

In ornithology, the term 'billing' refers to a courtship behavior displayed by certain bird species where two individuals touch, tap, or clasp each other's beaks. It is also known as beak-tapping or bill-tapping. It's called nebbing in British English.

This behavior is often seen in birds that form strong pair bonds and in some ways can be likened to kissing in humans. As today is Valentine's Day (it's always on February 14th), let's look at this interesting bonding behavior, and learn why birds engage in this activity.

Strengthening Pair Bonds
Billing is a sign of affection and helps to strengthen the bond between a mating pair. It is commonly observed in species that mate for life or have long-term partnerships Common Ravens hold each other's bills and feet as part of pair bonding. Atlantic Puffins tap bills quickly as part of their pair bonding behavior, as shown in the video below.

Mutual Grooming
In some cases, billing is part of mutual grooming (allopreening), where birds clean each other's feathers. Rock Pigeons engage in allopreening which includes mutual beak-touching.

Courtship Ritual
Billing is an essential part of the courtship ritual in many species. It is a display of trust and partnership, which can be critical in the mate-selection process. Courting Cedar Waxwings rub their beaks together and pass food to one another. Many albatross species engage in beak-tapping as part of their courtship, like the Waved Albatrosses in the below video.

Territorial and Social Signaling
In some instances, billing can also be a way of demonstrating a pair's territorial bond to other birds, signaling that they are a united and established couple.

Billing is a fascinating aspect of avian behavior that highlights the complex social interactions and emotional connections between birds.

Cute Valentine's Day Gift Ideas from Birdorable