An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Bird Nests Visible

11-25-14 black-throated blue nest  043When leaves start falling from deciduous trees, bird nests appear out of nowhere. Most songbirds abandon their nest after raising one brood, never to return to it. An empty nest sits where it was built until the elements break it down, another animal recycles the material from which it was made, or a mouse takes over winter occupancy. The period of time after the leaves fall and before winter and other creatures deconstruct the nests is ideal for discovering who raised their young under your nose this past summer.

Just as each species of bird has its own distinctive song, each species also builds a unique nest. It is often possible to determine what species built a nest without ever setting eyes on the bird. The size, shape, material used and habitat in which a nest is built are remarkably similar for all birds of a given species. Eastern phoebe nests mainly consist of mud covered with moss. Gray catbirds incorporate grape vine into their nests, and line them with rootlets. Ovenbird nests are on the ground, roofed over like old-fashioned ovens. While federal permits are necessary to collect these nests, they can be admired and identified without a permit. (Photo: the combination of this nest’s size (3” outer diameter), location (3’ off the ground) and material used (yellow birch bark strips, grasses, cocoons and black rootlet lining) pinpoint the builder as a Black-throated Blue Warbler.)

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5 responses

  1. love this!

    November 25, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    • Your paintings of nests are every bit as beautiful as the real thing!

      November 25, 2014 at 9:10 pm

  2. If most nests are abandoned, do you know why they made collecting nests illegal?

    November 26, 2014 at 2:29 am

    • Hi Eliza,
      I believe it goes way back to the early 1900’s when people were collecting eggs, etc. It’s the Migratory Bird Act:

      “The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), codified at 16 U.S.C. §§ 703–712 (although §709 is omitted), is a United States federal law, first enacted in 1916 in order to implement the convention for the protection of migratory birds between the United States and Great Britain (acting on behalf of Canada). The statute makes it unlawful without a waiver to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell birds listed therein (“migratory birds”). The statute does not discriminate between live or dead birds and also grants full protection to any bird parts including feathers, eggs and nests. Over 800 species are currently on the list .”

      Have a wonderful Thanksgiving (as we eat our birds)!

      November 26, 2014 at 3:09 am

      • Thanks, Mary. I guess it was a blanket statement to cover all bases. At least it kept the fashion hounds off their case. Hats are no place for birds.
        I do admit to enjoying my domesticated turkey and gravy. Enjoy your holiday!

        November 26, 2014 at 3:38 am

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