Blog Post 3:: Ongoing Field Observations

My newly selected study area was located at 262 Sumach Drive in Burlington, ON. It represented a fenced backyard about 22m x 40m in size. It backed into a large park called Hidden Valley that had a lot of wildlife within in. The backyard itself represented a maintained lawn, and had a few trees, mostly White Spruce and Silver Maples, as well as a hedge of Eastern White Cedars.

There were a number of bird feeders already present; therefore, the avian population was quite diverse. As a result, I have concentrated my efforts on observing birds and their behavior. As my study subject I have chosen the Black-capped Chickadee because, out of all the species present, they seemed to have the most “personality”.

I chose to observe their feeding behavior, concentrating on their preference for food. I have set up 3 birds feeders, each containing a different type of food:

  • Feeder A: Black-Oil Sunflower Seed
  • Feeder B: Peanuts (out of shells, cracked)
  • Feeder C: Mixed seed (containing red/white milo, cracked corn, wheat, and striped sunflower seed)

My goal was to determine what type of food they would prefer the most and why.

The three feeders were of exactly the same style (and were bought at the same time in the same store), the food was of three types (but I even purchased that from the same seller). I rotated the feeders once a week to make sure that it was not the location that was preferable, but rather the food offered.

I was conducting my counts (observing all three feeders at the same time) in November-December 2015, on weekends, for two consecutive days, in mornings – from 8am to 8:30 am, and in the late afternoon – from 6:00pm to 6:30pm. Along with the number of birds of that particular species (Black-capped Chickadee), I have also took note of the temperature as I wanted to see whether their food preference would change as the temperature dropped.

Hypothesis: Given the choice between foods, black-capped chickadees will prefer food with the most fat/energy content, while having to spend the least energy to obtain it.

Prediction: Given the choice between black-oil sunflower seed, peanuts, and mixed seed, black-capped chickadees will prefer peanuts as they will have the most fat/energy content, while also being easily accessible (i.e. not having to crack seed shells).

Response variable: the number of visits of a bird feeder by a chickadee (continuous)

Explanatory variable: food type (categorical)


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