The creative study of birds through art, photography, and writing

Just Published in Avian Conservation and Ecology: Nest Box Use During the Non-breeding Season

by Bryce W. Robinson



Caitlin just published an excellent paper detailing nest box use in the non-breeding season in Idaho.

This publication is an important contribution because it discusses patterns in nest box use during a period that has received little attention. Additionally, because nest box programs are engineered to supplement natural cavities to saturate an area with nesting habitat geared to benefit species, a full understanding of its impacts throughout the yearly cycle is important. This paper not only reports how nest boxes are used in the non-breeding season, but illustrates some possible negative impacts as well. Such impacts are primarily associated with the variable thermodynamic nature of nest boxes relative to natural cavities, resulting in deaths at temperature extremes.

The paper also details some inter and intraspecific interactions in nest boxes, and patterns of use in other cavity roosting species such as the Northern Flicker and European Starling. With this discussion comes supplementary video of some such encounters, and excellent inclusion to add further context.




Just Published: Applied Raptor Ecology: Essentials from Gyrfalcon Research

by Bryce W. Robinson


The Peregrine Fund just released a new book, “Applied Raptor Ecology: Essentials from Gyrfalcon Research”. This book serves as a techniques manual geared towards providing early career researchers with information and a stepwise guide for conducting various research on raptors. This information is also supplemented by mock data, and R code to help the researcher begin to form skills in R and analysis.

Although I am the clown in orange on the cover, my true contribution is found inside the book. I contributed as an author of a chapter – Quantifying Diet; an appendix – Guidelines for Conducting a Camera Study of Nesting Raptors; and as coauthor of an appendix – A Photographic and Morphometric Guide to Aging Gyrfalcon Nestlings.

For more information and to purchase the book, go here:

*PDF’s of each chapter will be available January 2018

White-collared Swift Nest in Belize, Central America

by Bryce W. Robinson


A watercolor sketch to describe the White-collared Swift. So far, I’ve been unable to obtain a proper photo…

In May, while accessing an Orange-breasted Falcon nest, I found the nest of a White-collared Swift (Streptoprocne zonaris). This species is a large, widely distributed swift of the neotropics. It is an amazing aerialist, foraging in large flocks that are incredible to watch.

Equally incredible is their nesting habitat. They nest on cliffs, most often associated with waterfalls and caves. Below is a photo that shows their typical habitat, complete with a waterfall descending hundreds of feet into a steep river canyon, covered with lush neotropical forest.


Photographing a White-collared Swift nest on a waterfall in Central America. Photo: Matt Allshouse.

I noticed birds occasionally leaving the foraging flock and coming into the waterfall. One bird flew past me, only feet away, and disappeared. I recognized the only area it could have gone, and upon investigation it flew from a small opening directly adjacent to flowing water. I had found a nest.


Photographing a White-collared Swift nest on a waterfall in Central America. Photo: Matt Allshouse.


White-collared Swift nest – center dark spot below the green vegetation.

In the nest were two bald nestlings. I quickly documented the situation and left, so that the bird could return and attend to the young. The nest seemed to be constructed of mud, twigs or grass, pine needles, and it had moss either as part of its structure or growing throughout.


This was my first swift nest. Swifts nest in a variety of situations: Buildings and chimneys, tree cavities, cliffs, and of course the most incredible is behind waterfalls.

If you want to learn more about White-collared Swift nesting habits, or anything related to their life history, visit the species account on Neotropical Birds Online.

Roper, E. M..(2011).White-collared Swift (Streptoprocne zonaris), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

Published in Western Birds: First Record of Eastern Phoebe Breeding in Alaska

by Bryce W. Robinson

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My latest publication, and my first in the excellent regional journal Western Birds (Western Field Ornithologist’s), details the first documentation of successful breeding of Eastern Phoebe in Alaska. You can find the pdf on my Researchgate profile. It’s short and to the point, and worth a read for anyone interested in the birdlife of North America.

Last year, while working in Alaska with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Program, I caught word of an Eastern Phoebe documented near Nome. I’m very familiar with Nome, since it is where I studied the Gyrfalcon for my master’s degree. I’ve birded the area heavily in the spring and summer months. There aren’t many Eastern Phoebe records for the state, so a bird showing up in Nome on the western coast is that much more exciting. I planned to be in Nome the following month to work with Red Knots, so I crossed my fingers that the bird would stick around long enough for me to see.

Surprisingly, a second Eastern Phoebe was documented soon after. Then came documentation of nest building, followed by nesting behavior and ultimately confirmed egg-laying and incubation. On my arrival at the start of July, I joined my friend Lucas DeCicco to see the pair on the outskirts of Nome. Since July is a time when the flow of birders ebbs in Nome, no one had checked on the nest for some time.

Sure enough, we found the birds feeding nestlings. After we had photographed and observed, Luke and I resolved to return regularly to document the success or failure of the pair.

In the end, the pair was successful. It was the first documented case of the species successfully breeding in Alaska, and on top of that in a location quite inhospitable and atypical of the species. The coast of Nome is not known for mild weather.

I told Luke that I thought it important to document this novel event in a publication, and he agreed. So we resolved to report the record, and asked for the help of those that originally found the first phoebe in June.

Thanks to Luke for his help with this seemingly simple publication. It wouldn’t be so clear, simple, and clean without him. Also, a big thanks to my co-authors who first found these birds – Aaron Bowman, Scott Hauser, John Wright. Thanks for the help with cleaning up the publication, and of course documenting the birds that led to this record.