Bird Nests Revealed
Deciduous leaves have fallen, revealing bird nests that were right under our noses all summer without our even knowing it. In addition to building in specific habitats and constructing different sized nests, each species of bird uses a combination of building material that is slightly different from every other species. Because of this, the material a bird uses to construct its nest can be diagnostic as far as determining what species built the nest. Is the nest lined with rootlets? Are grape vines incorporated into the nest? Is moss covering the outside of the nest? Is there a shed snake skin woven into the nest? The answer to these questions and others can help narrow down the list of possible builders.
This is the time of year to look for nests and try to determine, with the help of a good field guide such as Peterson’s Field Guide to Bird Nests, the identity of the birds that built them. (Be aware that possession of a bird nest, egg or feather of most migratory birds, even for scientific research or education, is illegal if you do not have a Federal Migratory Bird Scientific Collecting Permit.)
Sometimes you’ll find material in nests that surprise you — some contain man-made, as well as natural, materials. Among the most unusual examples of this are a nest built solely out of barbed wire by a Chihuahuan raven in Texas and the pictured clothes hanger nest built by a crow near Tokyo and photographed by Goetz Kluge.
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