There aren’t any cicadas where I live. Can I still participate?

We would love participants from any of the following states: AR, DC, DE, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, TN, VA, VT, WI, and WV. To understand how cicadas change bird feeding behavior and locations, it is important for us to know what they are doing in areas without cicadas. Data from areas (both within the emergence zone and outside it) where there are no cicadas present gives us a vital baseline for comparison. 

I am not very good at bird identification. Can I still participate?

You don’t have to be an expert birder to participate! If you’re not very confident in your bird ID skills, we recommend you only collect data on a handful of common and easy to identify birds like robins, cardinals, blue jays, and starlings. Pick a few, and familiarize yourself with their call and appearance using this handy guide or other guides like All About Birds. If you’re not absolutely certain of the identity of the bird you are observing, find a different bird.  

The bird I was observing flew away with a cicada (or other food item), but I didn’t see the bird eat it. Should I record it?

If a bird flies away with a cicada, it is likely going to eat it somewhere else or feed it to its nestlings. Definitely do record it in the appropriate column. 

What do I do if a bird flies away and comes back?

It’s important to keep your eyes (or binocs) on the same bird for as long as possible, and to stop the observation if you can no longer see it. That way we know that all the data is from a single individual. The one exception is if you are watching a nest or nest box (see the info on nests below). 

Can I watch birds at their nest or nest box?

Please do, but only if you can distinguish the male and female birds at the nest to make sure you are watching a single bird. For most observations, it’s important to keep your eyes (or binocs) on the same bird for as long as possible, and to stop the observation if you can no longer see it. That way we know that all the data is from a single individual. However, if you are watching a nest box, you can be sure that the bird you see going in and out is the same individual. It’s fine to continue an observation if a bird leaves your field of view and then returns. Record each time you see it bring a cicada into the nest in the column/question “# of cicadas eaten”, and record each time they bring non-cicada food into the nest under the column/question “# of non-cicadas eaten”. Just be sure not to disturb the birds. 

What if I can’t tell if the bird is eating a cicada or non-cicada item?

Only record data if you are close enough to distinguish cicadas from non-cicada foods. If you aren’t sure, don’t record the data point. 

What if the birds are eating annual cicadas? How do I tell the difference between periodical and annual cicadas? 

Lucky for us, annual cicadas don’t come out until long after all of the periodical cicadas will be dead. If you see a cicada in a bird’s beak before the second week of July, you can be sure that it is a periodical cicada. 

How many observations do I have to do?

There is no minimum number of observations. Every little bit helps!

When should I stop doing observations?

This experiment will end soon after Brood X dies. We suspect this will happen at the end of June. 

There are a lot of ways to submit my data. Should I submit my data in multiple ways?

Please only submit your data once! There is no need to fill out both the Google Form and an Excel spreadsheet for instance! There are many options so that you can pick the one that is easiest for you.

When should I submit the data I collect?

If you are collecting data on a Google Sheet, please share it with us when you are done collecting data for the season. If you are submitting untranscribed data sheets, We would prefer it if you sent them to us once per week. All Google Form entries are submitted to us the moment you hit submit, so no need to worry about timing. Please submit all of your data by July 15 at the latest. Anything submitted after the 15th of July may or may not be included in the study.

I am really curious to hear the results. How can I learn more?

We will be sending out a report with the results later this fall with our findings. We will send it to everyone who shares their email address with us when they submit data, unless you ask us not to. If you haven’t contributed data but still want to hear the results, shoot us a quick email at, and we will add you to our list.