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Posts tagged “bird nests

Great Blue Heron Chicks Yawning

I had to laugh recently when I noticed a chain reaction going on in a Great Blue Heron nest I was watching. There were five chicks, and one of them yawned. At least I presume it was a yawn, though perhaps it could have be re-aligning its beak or perhaps cooling off. Exactly like humans, each of the remaining four birds followed suit and proceeded to stretch their beaks open wide in succession. It struck me as quite comical, especially when I discovered myself yawning as I observed the heron chicks doing the same.


Dark-eyed Juncos Having Second Brood

In New England, Dark-eyed Juncos typically have two broods in a summer. The second-brood nest in the photograph contains the first of probably four or five eggs which are laid one day at a time. The egg lies on a soft lining made from the hair of a White-tailed Deer. Unlike most songbirds, Dark-eyed Juncos build their nests in a wide variety of sites, from the ground up to eight feet high in trees. Often they are in a small cavity on a sloping bank (well hidden by surrounding grass), under a protruding rock or among tree roots. But they’ve also been found under fallen tree trunks, on supports underneath houses on stilts, in barns or lofts between hay bales, in vines on the sides of buildings, on window ledges and light fixtures and in hanging flower pots. It’s not unheard of to find a Dark-eyed Juncos relining the old nest of an American Robin.


Ruffed Grouse Eggs Hatching

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If you stumble, as I did, upon a female Ruffed Grouse whose eggs have recently hatched, be prepared for her fury! When I entered nearby woods, the mother charged at me with her crest raised, tail spread and ruffs (black neck feathers) erect. (Her chicks had dispersed prior to this, well hidden by their camouflaged down.) Fiercely protective, female grouse with young are known for their aggressive behavior. A large grouse might weigh two pounds – to tackle a human weighing more than 50 times as much as oneself is pretty impressive.


Great Blue Heron Nests

Great Blue Heron chicks are getting big enough so that you can easily observe them (can you find all four?). Occasionally you can even detect flies and other insects buzzing about them, which, given the fact that nest sanitation is not a priority for herons, is not surprising. While the parents do toss the eggshells out of the nest, feces, partly eaten prey and even dead chicks often remain in the nest. Also, parents feed their young by regurgitating into the nest and the chicks will regurgitate when disturbed. Unlike most song birds, Great Blue Herons re-use their nest year after year. It is quickly apparent why they add more sticks and boughs to their nest every breeding season – were that housekeeping for humans was that simple!


Brown Creepers Nesting

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The Brown Creeper is so well camouflaged that there are many people who don’t even know of its existence. This diminutive bird gets its name from its habit of creeping along tree trunks and spiraling upwards while it probes for insects and spiders hidden in bark crevices with its curved, sharp bill.  At this time of year, brown creepers have already made their fibrous nest behind a loose flap of bark on a tree, and the 5 – 6 nestlings are constantly demanding food.  Unlike some species, both adults care for their young.  These photos illustrate how the male goes off and finds an invertebrate, flies back to the nest and gives it to the female, who then disappears behind bark to feed it to her nestlings.


Cliff Swallow

The nesting habits of Cliff Swallows are fairly unusual in that these swallows are colonial nesters.  Here in the East you can find 20 or 30 of their nests under a bridge or the eaves of a barn (and occasionally on cliffs).  In the West, colonies consist of up to 3,500 nests! The construction of their gourd-shaped nest requires between 900 and 1,200 trips to mud puddles or stream banks, where they gather a mouthful of mud in the form of a pellet.  Often two swallows will build nests side-by-side, sharing the wall of mud that separates them. Unfortunately, according to the most recent Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas, the Cliff Swallow population in Vermont has declined by 48% in the past 25 years, a fact which is attributed to competition with House Sparrows, a decline in insects due to diminishing farm land, and destruction of nests by humans.  These birds are more important insect predators than ever, with the bat population having suffered such a decline recently due to white-nose syndrome. 

 


Great Blue Herons Return

Great Blue Herons are returning to their breeding grounds in northern New England, where they typically nest in colonies.  Unlike the nests of songbirds, heron nests are re-used year after year.  While an individual heron does not usually choose the same nest every year, they usually return to the same colony.  While some colonies are active for only a few years, some have been known to be active for over 70 years.  Because nests can be located up to 100 feet high in a tree (typically a dead snag in the Northeast), you rarely have a bird’s eye view of nesting activity.  However, if you go to Cornell’s new live great blue heron web cam site (http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=2433 ) you can see every movement made by the great blue herons currently nesting in Sapsucker Woods in Ithaca, NY.