You may have noticed that I really like birds. I love to sit and watch visitors to our feeders. I love to listen to morning bird songs. I love to keep an eye out for birds wherever I am, because you just never know what you might see.
There is a lot to learn about birds. I started by learning to identify the species that came to my feeder. Then, I noticed my Audubon bird book is classified by terms like “perching birds” and “tree clinging birds.” I wanted to know what that meant, so I found out. Then I wondered, when I moved from Michigan to North Carolina, why I didn’t have more varieties of birds at my feeders, and my dad told me it was because my new home was in a more wooded area, which meant there would be more birds who ate insects than birds who ate seeds. Naturally, birds who eat different kinds of food have different beaks suited to their purpose. And feathers! I had no idea there were so many different kinds of feathers!
It’s early in the spring now, and it’s a good time to look out for bird nests. If the leaves aren’t on the trees much where you live, you will probably find mostly old nests. I’ve learned that birds generally don’t start building their nests unless they’re pretty sure they’re hidden from the prying eyes of people and predators. Also, there are very few birds who reuse their nests, so if you find an old one, feel free to take a good look at it without worrying about scaring away any tenants.
One time, we had some house finches build a nest on top of the wreath we had on our door. I left them there, because by the time I noticed, there were already eggs in the nest. My mom told me I would get a bird in my house. I told her we’d just remember not to use the front door. Guess what? The mama bird flew into my house, straight up the stairs and down the hall to the bonus room. My dad and I had quite a time catching her – we had to chase her until she was tired enough to be trapped gently in a towel and released. Note to self: pay more attention to birds and wreaths. However, we did get to observe the birds from eggs to fledglings, and that was pretty cool. Unfortunately I don’t have pics of the older birds (when I got up there to see them, the flew away right under my nose, and I nearly fell off the step ladder), but I do have some of the eggs and young babies:
On a recent walk in my neighborhood, my children and I saw several birds’ nests, just walking by. To be honest, I am not very good at identifying them yet, but I’m pretty sure the ones we were able to get close to were mockingbird nests. There was also one at the very top of a tree. I, myself, would not feel safe like that, particularly in a strong wind, but since that nest has obviously been there for nearly a year through all kinds of weather, I guess the birds know how to build it so it won’t blow away. We also have several squirrel nests around, which look like big clumps of leaves and are usually in fairly tall trees.
If you’d like to try to attract birds to nest in your yard, here are some things you can try:
- Consider putting up nesting boxes. If you want to get fancy, you can put a camera in it so you can observe your birds in their nest.
- Put out some nesting materials.
- Long-term, you might consider bird-friendly landscaping.
I’m new to identifying nests, myself, but here are some resources for you, and me, as we start learning about them.
Some online resources:
- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, who do The Great Backyard Bird Count and Project Feederwatch, also have Project Nestwatch! They have a page on identifying nests.
- The Birders Report has information on birds in the west and southwest.
- Nest Watch has a great page with pictures of nests and nestlings of common bird species.
- Bird Nest Identification from birding.about.com
- Sialis has great information on bluebirds, particularly what other kinds of birds might nest in your bluebird box
Some books for your field guide collection:
- Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds – looks like a great resource.
- Peterson Field Guide: Eastern Birds’ Nests – Kinda wish I had this one, but since I’m moving to Colorado, I will probably get the next one on the list
- A Field Guide to Western Birds’ Nests – For those of us west of the Mississippi
- Birds, Nests & Eggs (Take Along Guides) – we have several of these Take-Along Guides, and we love them! They are great to use with kids.
Have you found any bird nests in your yard, or neighborhood? Were you able to tell what kind of bird made them? Have you been able to see any baby birds in their nest?