Neighborhood Nestwatch

In early June 2013 the National Aviary hatched the idea of bringing a very successful citizen science project called Neighborhood Nestwatch right here to Pittsburgh. Developed in 2000 by Dr. Peter Marra at the Smithsonian Institute for the Washington, D.C. area, Neighborhood Nestwatch was expanded in 2012 to include Springfield, Massachusetts, Gainesville, Florida, and in 2013...

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!

  • Gracen_showingabirdto_ChetTabas


Neighborhood Nestwatch is a study that focuses on eight common backyard birds found throughout the eastern U.S. and in a variety of landscapes from urban to rural.  They are: Bob Mulvihill showing the McGeachy kids a Song Sparrow he caught and banded in their backyard

American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Black-capped/Carolina Chickadee
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow

These and other birds are caught and uniquely color-banded by researchers during an annual morning-long visit to the home of every Neighborhood Nestwatch participant. 

Participants and their families are encouraged to be present for the banding activities and are welcome to invite their friends and neighbors, too.  They will even be given the chance to hold and release birds after banding, which is an extraordinary experience for children and adults alike!


First and foremost, participants provide access to private areas that otherwise could not be used for scientific study of birds. By simply allowing researchers to come, catch, and band birds in their backyards (and front yards and side yNestwatch volunteer, Adrienne Leppold, discusses a bird-in-hand with 8 yr. old Braydon Mallory, who is very interested in ornithology.ards!), participants in Neighborhood Nestwatch are already helping a great deal. But, after the birds are banded and the researchers have left, participants continue to help—they (and their neighbors) keep track of when they see the birds that were banded in their yard.  This information is used to estimate survival rates.  Also, participants help by finding and monitoring any bird nests they find.  This information is used to analyze nesting success for birds living in areas with different amounts of developed land.

Like all citizen science projects (for example, National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count), the strength of Neighborhood Nestwatch lies in the large amount of data that can be gathered in a relatively short period of time.  Nestwatch participants not only provide access to their backyards, giving researchers an ability to study birds in developed areas, they become bona fide field assistants, helping researchers to gather much data on bird nesting and survival.


The pilot Pittsburgh Neighborhood Nestwatch project took flight in late June 2013, and by early August the National Aviary’s Ornithologist, Bob Mulvihill, with help from some very dedicated volunteers, had visited the homes of more than 35 National Aviary members and friends in a wide diversity of neighborhoods and communities throughout the Greater Pittsburgh region. They caught and banded more than 550 birds of 25 species; importantly, this included more than 300 birds of the eight target species—an excellent start!  Click here for a current list of the birds banded for Pittsburgh Neighborhood Nestwatch.

As the data generated by Pittsburgh Neighborhood Nestwatchers accumulates in the years ahead, we will learn about the ways that birds are adapting to urban environments and how we can help them to better survive and thrive wherever people live, work, shop, and learn.  Just as importantly, we believe Neighborhood Nestwatch will inspire in more and more people a lifelong respect for nature through an increased appreciation of birds!


If you can help us add locations to any of the blank areas on the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Nestwatch map next year, please let us know!  Contact National Aviary Ornithologist, Bob Mulvihill (; 412-258-1148), and be sure to provide your street address and contact information.