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Opportunisitic Bird Nest Builders

12-3 northern mockingbird nest IMG_6363Several winters ago I discovered a Northern Mockingbird nest in downtown White River Junction, Vermont. Like all birds, mockingbirds are opportunists and utilize whatever material is available when building their nests. Even though it is not a booming metropolis (population roughly 2,500), White River’s relatively dense population is reflected in the building material that these songbirds used. Because they often nest in urban and suburban areas where trash tends to be more concentrated, mockingbirds often line their nests with bits of plastic, aluminum foil, and shredded cigarette filters (see photo). The male constructs the twig foundation while the female makes most of the lining. He often begins building several nests before the female chooses one to finish and lay eggs in.

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9 responses

  1. Somewhere I have an old slide of a tiny Arctic bird’s nest made of caribou hair. Warmest nest in the world.

    December 4, 2015 at 7:54 am

  2. Sue Wetmore

    I wonder if the nicotine in the cigarette filters deter parasites?

    December 4, 2015 at 7:58 am

  3. Marcy Neville

    perhaps the cigarette filters provide insecticide value too??

    December 4, 2015 at 8:50 am

  4. Rob Crosby

    Mary, My wife and I both enjoy your blog and we have provided links to it for a number of friends and relatives.
    A word about the mockingbird nest. While a great deal of trash does find a functional “afterlife” in bird nests, some, most notably discarded fishing line, can prove fatal. I’ve found too many nests made almost entirely of monofilament; one with remains of ensnared chicks that never got the chance to fledge. With the support of the Auburn Maine Water District I’ve made “recycling tubes” that have been placed at popular shoreline fishing spots. Early indications are that local fishermen have taken them to heart and they get regular use. I have pictures of some nests as well as shots of the tubes if you’re interested. The Lewiston Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine) did a feature story on our efforts in the May 13, 2013 issue.
    Thanks again for providing such an interesting and informative blog. We look forward to reading it.

    December 4, 2015 at 9:55 am

  5. Kathy

    I should check out the composition of the one I know of in Keene. It was built in a Japanese Barberry (unfortunately, since it’s an invasive) and is well protected in the thick, thorny branches.

    December 4, 2015 at 10:25 am

  6. Eric Wegner

    Loving the blogs, Mary. Do you have a book on nests you like?

    December 4, 2015 at 10:51 am

    • Hi Eric,
      I use Peterson’s Field Guide to nests, and Richard Headstrom’s key on bird nests.

      December 4, 2015 at 1:26 pm

  7. PEG

    My friend keeps in a bell jar, a small perfectly woven nest entirely made of her young son’s hair after she gave the towhead a haircut outside; vireo?

    December 4, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    • It’s hard to say who built it without seeing it, Peg. Do you have a photo of it? If so, if you send it to me at I’ll see if I can tell what kind it is!

      December 4, 2015 at 7:23 pm

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