One of the largest periodical cicada broods in the world, Brood X, is emerging across 15 states this spring. Because cicadas come out so infrequently, there are many big questions about them yet to be answered. We are studying the ways that the cicada emergence disrupts local food webs as birds shift their diet to this abundant food source. We think that this shift will allow other insects to thrive and eat more leaves on local trees. We want to know if all, or only some of the birds are changing their feeding behavior and diet. Knowing which birds are eating cicadas will help us understand which plants and insects will be affected during the emergence. Join in this scientific discovery by watching birds and sharing your observations with us!
- Find a spot to observe birds. Record the date, time, location, presence or absence of cicadas, and habitat type. See details below on how to format these correctly.
- Choose a single bird to quietly observe. Choose a bird that is not currently eating. Watch it for as long as possible up to 4 minutes. You may use a stopwatch, count the seconds in your head, or estimate and round to the nearest 15 seconds. End the observation when the bird flies out of sight (unless they are flying to and from a nest—see the FAQ below), or when 4 minutes are up. See the restrictions below.
- Record every time the bird eats either a cicada or non-cicada in the appropriate box. If the bird only eats part of something before discarding, that still counts and should be recorded. However, eating the same thing over multiple bites only counts once. Live cicadas, dead cicadas, nymphs, and adults all count as cicadas. If a bird flies off with a cicada in its beak, this still counts as a feeding event and should be tallied.
- If the bird does not eat at all during the observation time, do not record any data for that observation.
- When you have finished observing a bird, record the time spent watching it and the foraging locations. If you are not confident that you can distinguish foraging from other behaviors, record the locations where you can see the bird eating.
- It is important to not observe the same bird more than once per day. To be sure you are not watching the same bird again, only watch one individual of a species per day, unless the observations are at least 100 yards apart, or if you are watching breeding pairs at different nests. Otherwise, watch as many birds as possible during the cicada emergence. The more the better!
Restrictions and further details
- Data can be collected both inside and outside the emergence range. We would love to get data from folks outside the cicada range which we can use to compare how cicadas change bird behavior and foraging location. We invite participants from 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, WV. Be sure to enter 0 for # of cicadas eaten, and 0 for cicada presence.
- Do not watch birds who are visiting a feeder during the observation window. If one does visit a feeder, stop the observation and do not mark a tally for visiting the feeder. Enter “Feeder” in the notes column.
- Feel free to watch birds in any kind of habitat including, but not limited to, back yards, city sidewalks, or deep woods. Feel free to watch from your window!
- Only observe birds that you can identify. For tips identifying common backyard birds, please check out our guide.
- Only observe a bird if you’re close enough to observe the bird’s beak.
- Feel free to observe birds at any time. Birds may be more active in the morning from 5:30-9 a.m.
Data Sheets and Submission
- If you will be recording a small number of observations on a given day, you may prefer to use the data entry form here. The data will be submitted to us every time you hit submit.
- If you plan to do many observations you may find it easier to use this Google Sheet. Click File ->Make a copy.
- If you would prefer to print a data sheet or use Excel, you can access them here:
- If you record your data on printed paper, please transcribe your data onto the Google Sheet provided above. It can be hard for us to read everyone’s handwriting, and we are very busy collecting data ourselves. If you are unable to transcribe the data onto the sheet above, you can scan your data sheet or take a picture of it and send it to BroodXBirdFeast@gmail.com. If you are collecting data on a Google Sheet, please share it with us when you are done collecting data. If you are submitting untranscribed data sheets, send them to us once per week. Please submit all of your data by July 15 at the latest.
The top 3 folks who contribute the most observations, and the top 3 folks who contribute the most different species will win a Brood X t-shirt of their choice from the Friend To Cicadas store.
If you have questions, check out our FAQ below. You can also contact us with questions or concerns at BroodXBirdFeast@gmail.com. If you take any photos of birds eating cicadas, or have any other records of birds feeding on cicadas, feel free to send them our way! We would love to see them.
Data Entry Guidelines
|Field||Notes on response|
|Name||Feel free to use whatever name or code name you prefer. Just be consistent across your sheets if you have multiple sheets.|
|GPS coordinates or address||If you use a GPS coordinate, be sure to enter it exactly as you read it. Different coordinate formats can look similar but refer to different places. 12° 34′ 56.7″ is different from 12° 34.567′ which is different from 12.34567°. To generate a GPS coordinate, you can open Google Maps, zoom into your location, hold (don’t tap) a finger on the screen (or left click and hold down on your mouse or touchpad) to drop a pin at your location, and read coordinates that appear in the search bar.|
|Date||Date should be entered in the format MM.DD|
|Time||Time should be entered in the format 9:15 am.|
|Habitat||If possible, select one of the following: wetland, forest, field, yard (includes managed lawns like golf courses or soccer fields), urban (e.g. city streets, parking lots), or ag (e.g. farms and orchards). If one of these options doesn’t accurately describe the habitat you observe, you may use your own designation.|
|Cicada presence||Enter Absent if there are no cicadas present, and Present if you hear or see live cicadas.|
|Bird species||Only record birds you can identify. Either the common name or scientific name is fine.|
|Length of observation||This should be no more than 4 minutes per bird. Format should be M:SS|
|# of cicadas eaten||Record how many times the bird ate a cicada (alive or dead). If the bird only ate part of the cicada before discarding, that still counts as a full cicada. However, eating the same cicada over multiple bites counts once.|
|# of non-cicadas eaten||Record how many times the bird ate a non-cicada item, which can include seeds, fruit, worms, other insects, garbage etc. If the bird only ate part of the item before discarding, that still counts as a full item. However, eating the same item over multiple bites only counts once.|
|Foraging location||Where is the bird foraging? If possible, select one or more of the following: ground, foliage (branches or leaves on trees or bushes), aerial (in the air), water (in a body of water), or bark (tree trunk). If one of these options doesn’t accurately describe the foraging you observed, use your own designation.|
|Notes||Feel free to add notes on anything you think might be relevant or interesting. If the observation ended early due to the bird going to a feeder, note “Feeder.”|