Spring has officially arrived as of March 20. Don’t let Stella’s snow deceive you – the new season is noticeable in recent longer days, warm sunny light, and cheerful bird songs. There are many birds in residence here on the nursery’s 50 acres, and on the adjoining acres of open fields and woodlands that reach all the way to the shores of Lake Champlain.
Empty nests abound and are clearly visible during the winter months when the trees are leafless. Some of our maples look like bird condominiums with as many as 5 nests in one tree. Rain, wind and snow can dislodge some of the nests and we will randomly find them looking rather forlorn on a foot path. It is interesting to examine the nests up close as the construction is so unique to each species.
Some are slapped together (Mourning Dove) and I cannot figure out how the poor chicks manage not to fall to the ground. Others are elaborate pieces of art, intricately woven and plastered. Birds use all sorts of materials for nest building. Some birds seem to be very specific in their choices while others improvise using whatever is in sight.
Swifts, robins and swallows do often return to the same nesting sites. They may use the same nest or at least build a new one on top of the old. Eagles and herons spend their summers here and they usually reuse the same nest site, adding some new touches to last year’s nest. Most birds, however, build a whole new home for their eggs.
Other clever animals can repurpose the empty nests. A red squirrel used this sturdy Robin’s nest as a winter bin for food stores. Unfortunately it was dislodged during a recent building remodel.
The photo below was taken in Panama and shows nests woven by the Montezuma Oropendola, a bird native to the Caribbean coastal lowlands. The female weaves the nest which can hang 3 feet or more long. Often the nests are found at the very tips of branches near wasp nests. The delicate branches cannot support nest invaders and the sting of the wasp is a further deterrent. They prefer tall trees in the open, as monkeys are less likely to scale a single tree. Monkeys prefer the protection provided by multiple trees that they can travel across since they don’t like to cross open ground. The intricately woven nests are often found in groups, and can take about 10 days of work on the part of the female.
Last year some of the Horsford Team here at the nursery decided to see how many different birds they could spot in one season. The only criteria was that the bird had to be identified by two individuals in order to make the list. Males and females were sited for at least half of the birds on the list. It is pretty impressive and I have included it at the end of this writing.
What nests have you spotted before? Learn more about identifying nests where you live with NestWatch.
Bird Sitings Recorded at Horsford’s – 2016
Killdeer, Eastern Bluebird, Mourning Dove, Baltimore Oriole, Purple Finch, American Crow, Red-winged Blackbird, Belted Kingfisher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, American Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Scarlet Tanager, American Redstart, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, American Robin, Common Grackle, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, White-breasted Nuthatch, European Starling, Northern Flicker, Chimney Swift, Common Yellowthroat, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Wild Turkey
More Nests from Around the Nursery