Posts Tagged ‘nest’


Shall I? Shan't I?

The pond featured in an earlier entry, Down by the Pond was manmade, originally dug to provide water for irrigation. It has gradually naturalized and now hosts a range of animal and plant life. You don’t have to turn your yard into a pond to attract wildlife, however. Even a bird bath will be appreciated!

Pictured above is a Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina), checking out the facilities. Chipping Sparrows are named for their chipping call note. They are common summer residents across Ontario. They favour open, grassy areas bordered by woodlands or thickets, including parks and gardens. The Chipping Sparrow was once referred to as the ‘hairbird’ from its practice of lining its nest with horse hair. With the decline of the horse in many neighbourhoods, the trait and the name have disappeared. However, around my house, horse hair is still available and it isn’t uncommon to find a Chipping Sparrow’s cup-like nest in the fall, once the trees lose their leaves, neatly lined with Mousie’s silver or Czarina’s chestnut tail hairs.


I will!

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I’ve been in horse stables where Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) were nesting above the horses’ heads, barely out of arms-reach of people coming and going and everyone got on fine. The several pairs of swallows nesting in the barn here, however, are upset whenever I enter the barn, even though they are far overhead on the roof rafters. They seem to feel they should have the barn to themselves and set up a cacophony of distressed chittering when I arrive.

tree swallows

Meanwhile, just down the field the Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are carrying nesting materials to their box.


When I was walking past this small pine tree, putting hay out for the horses’ breakfast, I noticed a dark shape near the trunk of the tree. A closer look revealed this female American Robin (Turdus migratorius) sitting on her nest.


Robins are numerous around here. When I was walking along the river, I noticed another mother robin, incubating her eggs.


Robins usually sit tight. That is, even when disturbed by a person close at hand, they stick to their nest and stay still. One season when Birdgirl was working on a nest monitoring study, she came across one robin who wouldn’t budge until she was actually putting her fingers in the nest to check for eggs. Now that’s a dedicated mom. In contrast to robins, Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) are quite easily disturbed. When I walked past a small spruce tree, a grackle made a hasty exit and I knew to look for a nest. Here it is!


The mother retreated to the top of a nearby tree and complained loudly about my presence from the safety of her high perch. With both robins and grackles, the female incubates the eggs, keeping the eggs warm with her body. In order to warm the eggs efficiently, the female develops a brood patch, an area of skin on the belly that loses its feathers toward the end of the egg-laying period. Most birds shed the feathers automatically, though geese and ducks pluck the feathers and add the to the nest. The brood patch also develops extra blood vessels to bring hot blood close to the surface of the skin. When birds return to the nest after a break to resume incubating, they make settling-in movements while they position the brood patch so it is in contact with the eggs. In species where the male also incubates, males may also develop a brood patch. The feathers gradually grow back in after brooding is done.


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