In this issue: Mountain Bluebird status update, plus an odd find in martin nests.
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NestWatch eNewsletter

November 2022

A pair of Mountain Bluebirds perch on a barbed-wire fence.
Mountain Bluebirds were the focus of a recent online event which can now be watched by anyone. Photo by Claire Christensen.

From Our Blog: Mountain Bluebird Status Update

The North American Bluebird Society recently convened a virtual conference to assess the status of the least-studied bluebird species—the Mountain Bluebird. Four panelists presented trend data and interacted with nest box stewards to try to understand what next steps would help address declines. You can read a summary of the event, and watch the full recording, on our blog.

A split image showing pearl buttons on the left and a Purple Martin gourd rack on the right.
When a farmer found pearl buttons in a completed Purple Martin nest, his curiosity was sparked and he searched out answers. Photos by Cheryl Allen.

On Martins And Mussels

Fans of mystery novels (and birds) will appreciate this news article about "the curious case of the Purple Martins and the pearl buttons." When a Purple Martin landlord in Iowa cleaned out his nesting gourds, he found a cache of iridescent pearl buttons which haven't been manufactured since the 1940s. 

Why were they there? He sleuthed out the answer with the help of historians, neighboring farmers, and NestWatch. Journalist Cheryl Allen brings this mysterious story to life in an informative and entertaining tale that starts in the year 1891. Don't miss it!

Data Boost in British Columbia

A Tree Swallow is perched at a tree hole where 3 young are begging for food.
Tree Swallows by Charlie Renideo.

This month we were pleased to upload 250 nest records of 7 species from British Columbia. We thank Jacquie Taylor and Helen Anderson of Cowichan Bring Back the Bluebirds Project for collating the data for the upload. Great work everyone!
A Chihuahuan Meadowlark stands in a grassy field.
Chihuahuan Meadowlark by Alex Eberts/Macaulay Library.

What's Old Is New

Our Nest Quest Go! initiative continues to add historic nest records to the NestWatch database. Since our last newsletter, many new collections have been uploaded, including: catbirds, mockingbirds, cuckoos, raptors, thrashers, hummingbirds, orioles, nocturnal birds, starlings, sparrows, warblers, grassland birds, bushtits, titmice, tanagers, and blackbirds. Together these collections add an impressive 44,796 nest records to our long-term archive! One card from 1973 has already received a taxonomic update: an Eastern Meadowlark nest record was determined to actually be that of a Chihuahuan Meadowlark, which scientists have recently split from the Eastern Meadowlarks. It's now the only nest record of that species in our database!

If you haven't explored Nest Quest Go! before, try your hand at transcribing old paper nest record cards into digital data. We still need your help finishing up the Tree Swallow collection. Your help is so appreciated!
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at

NestWatch is a citizen science program that tracks status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds, including when nesting occurs, number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive. To learn how you can help, visit

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