Time to Vote! Which Question Would You Like to See Investigated?

By Rachael Mady, April 30, 2020

Hawk Happenings:

April – November 2020

Participants came together to watch the Red-tailed Hawks cam and study six behaviors at the nest and how their frequency related to weather. The data revealed that the total number of vocalizations, feedings, prey deliveries, and nestling activities (flapping, walking, defending prey) increased with temperature. To learn more, check out the Hawk Happenings Final Report.

We’ve brainstormed, we’ve refined, and now it’s time to vote on the question that you’d like to see the community investigate. We’ve narrowed it down to five questions based on four criteria that we discussed on the Question Design Board: Is the question interesting? Specific? Measurable? Feasible?

A huge thank you to everyone who participated on the Wonder Board and the Question Design Board! This investigation wouldn’t be possible without the questions you proposed and the comments you made to consider their pros and cons.

If you’re ready to vote, head to our poll where you can rank five questions, from the one you’d most like to see investigated, to the least.

If you’d like a little more info before voting, read on. We’ve put together a short summary of insights from your discussions on the Question Design Board.

How long does each adult incubate/brood the eggs and how often do they switch?
Participants discussed how this question could be one of the easiest to measure while observing live footage and that it is also specific and feasible. Since incubation is already complete for this year, we could focus on collecting data in real time regarding brooding behavior (sitting on nestlings as opposed to eggs). To look at incubation, we would need to tag data using recorded footage from earlier this year using Zooniverse, the platform we used for the previous investigation, Hawk Talk.

What is the frequency of different hawk behaviors, and does the frequency change with weather conditions at this nest?
The community proposed two questions to understand more about hawk behavior and we’ve combined them into one question. We discussed if the wording of the second part of the question should be “how does” or “does,” and we’ve left it as “does” because we don’t want to assume there is a change until we have evidence that there is a one. We will need to figure out what behaviors we are interested in. Suggestions so far include feeding, nest maintenance, and vocalizing. Importantly, we need to choose behaviors that are discrete so we can easily note when the behavior happens. Depending on what part of the breeding season we want to document, we could note when and how often these behaviors occur using live or archived footage.

How do adults’ vocalizations vary with behavior or time of day at this nest?
Participants noted that there is less campus noise this year because Cornell University is closed due to the pandemic, perhaps making it easier to document adult vocalizations compared to their investigation in a similar project, Hawk Talk, last year. They discussed how findings from Hawk Talk were interesting and how they would be interested in seeing if clearer patterns emerge with more data. To do so, we would want to increase the number of types of vocalizations we document and consider using spectrograms (visual representations of audio) to see differences. One challenge is that adult vocalizations are infrequent and would mean that we need to watch lots of footage. We might need to do this with archived footage which offers more options than live footage for detecting and discerning vocalizations.

Do nestling vocalizations change as they get older?
The community suggested revising the wording of this question to be, “How do nestling vocalizations change as the nestlings get older?” Just like for the adult vocalization question, the nest site on campus would be quieter this year, potentially making vocalizations easier to hear. We could additionally track behavior to see if there are any associations between behavior and vocalizations. Depending on the level of detail, we could collect data to answer this question using live or recorded footage.

What types of prey are brought to the nest and do adults bring different types?
Community members pointed out that they have already gathered lots of prey data in past years, using a Google spreadsheet to track prey brought to the nest. However, there is still value in continuing to gather prey data for comparison across years, and we have a new opportunity to do so using a live data collection feature that is available now for the first time. We could also use archived footage if we wanted to compare Arthur’s prey deliveries to those of Big Red’s previous mate, Ezra.

What factors determine which nestling gets food first at this nest? (Omitted from vote)
Although this question gained a lot of interest in the sorting activity, discussions on the Question Design board revealed that it would be difficult to gather accurate data for this question and we will not be able to identify individual nestlings (they look too much alike!). We can only note factors like how active nestlings are (is the most active nestling fed first?) or position (is the closest nestling to the adult fed first?). Because of these challenges, we decided to omit this question from the vote, leaving us with a total of five questions for you to rank.

Thanks for reading up on the pros and cons for each of these questions.
Ready to vote now? Check out the poll where you can tell us which questions you’d most like to see the community investigate!

The last day to vote is Monday, May 4th, so be sure to get your vote in by then!