Wednesday, June 2, 2010

On Nests!

Nina's special find: a horsehair nest!

It's the beginning of June and nesting season is well underway. Our feathered friends may be seen busily selecting their prime spot, gathering materials, and doing their magic to create the sacred place where their eggs will be laid and their young raised. Many species have already fledged their first brood. Before the leaves have completely formed on the trees, we have a chance to observe where nests are located. It is fascinating to see the different types of nests; it's also mind-boggling to think of the task of building what is so often an incredibly intricate thing.

I love a book called And So They Build by Bert Kitchen. It examines 12 different animal builders and the purposes behind each of their unique constructions. The birds included are satin bowerbirds; swallows; and my favorite, the tailorbird. Kitchen's descriptions, accompanied by his exquisite illustrations, make the book a joy for young and old.

On my property in southwest Wisconsin, I have wrens nesting in gourds; bluebird pairs in two Peterson boxes; a Red-Bellied Woodpecker in a perfectly carved hole in a dead tree cavity; and a moss-covered phoebe nest under the eave of my old stone house. (And these are only the nests I've noticed!) This year my large red mailbox has become the location for an ample starling nest. The box is used only for large parcels and it should be obvious to any delivery person who sees long strands of grass hanging out of the partially-opened door that it is "closed for business."

If you have seen a nest built in a strange or funny location, you may want to take a photo of it and enter it in "Funky Nests in Funky Places" challenge, sponsored by Kaytee. The website is, and you will see photos of nests submitted from people around the world. Or, perhaps you have a hankering to peek at active nests. There are video cameras set up for this! According to the spring issue of Birdscope, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, one of many resources on-line that allow you to "watch the nesting cycle unfold without human disturbance and witness behaviors that are beautiful, fascinating, and extraordinary" is at

Lastly, if you're looking for safe ways to find and monitor nests, build nest boxes, and contribute to the knowledge base about nesting birds, go to

Happy observing!

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff

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