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Red-eyed Vireo Nests

1-28-16 red-eyed vireo nest IMG_6315

The Red-eyed Vireo’s nest is indisputably a work of art. Unlike most songbird nests, it is suspended below the branch to which it is attached. Perhaps the observant eye of Arthur C. Bent, a compiler of firsthand bird observations in the early to mid-1900’s, describes it best.

The red-eyed vireo builds a dainty little pensile nest suspended usually from a forking, horizontal branch of a tree, rather below the level of our eyes as we walk through second-growth. The nest is a beautifully finished piece of workmanship, constructed of fine grasses and rootlets, bits of birch bark, and paper from wasps’ nests, bound together and to the supporting branches with spider’s or caterpillar’s webbing, and , perhaps the most constant material, long, narrow, flexible strands of grapevine bark, which help to hold up the cup of the nest.

As mentioned, pieces of Bald-faced Hornet nests are frequently incorporated into the outside of a Red-eyed Vireo’s nest. These papery bits of hornet nest are purely decorative, and serve no structural purpose. Hornets are aggressive and defend their nests vigorously, so much so that it is unusual to find birds nesting in close proximity to a hornet nest. A vireo nest covered with papery bits of a hornet’s nest looks very much like a young hornet nest. It is conceivable that the use of this decorative material is a strategy employed by vireos to ward off potential nest predators.

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6 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    What a gorgeous & clever nest, our feathered friends are so amazing, building structures to raise their young…all so different & with such varied materials….how do they “learn” this….memories of where they were raised?!

    February 9, 2016 at 7:54 am

    • Miraculously, it’s an innate ability. Wish I knew the answer to your question!

      February 9, 2016 at 8:16 am

  2. Fantastic! Thank you. Who knew?

    February 9, 2016 at 7:59 am

  3. Ann Hargraves

    Ned

    Ann Hargraves

    >

    February 9, 2016 at 8:23 am

  4. Marie Kirn

    Oh, I love this nest. AND you are absolutely amazing to me! I hope you had some sleep and are morel comfortable today. Love. Marile

    February 9, 2016 at 9:11 am

  5. Beautiful construction, interesting to think it may be hornet camouflage!

    February 9, 2016 at 10:09 pm

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