A Good Piece of Nesting Material


As my son and I prepared to leave the house this morning, I noticed a robin had the streamer of my windsock in its beak, hopping around the porch railing and pulling at it. Over and over it tried to carry it away, even making attempts to fly off with the thing, but that streamer held tight. Obviously, the bird thought my windsock looked like a good piece of nesting material.

It’s that time already. While it seems like the migratory birds have just arrived – and that may be true – it is already time to get down to the business of putting down roots for the summer and build a nest. The shape, location, and materials used in nest-making varies between species, but all nests serve a common purpose: raising young. It is also critical that the nest be sheltered from invading predators and protect the birds from the elements.

Female American robins are primarily responsible for building their bowl-shaped nests, for which they use twigs, mud, and dry grasses. My robin was probably planning on using the windsock streamer in the way it would a piece of grass.  

The house wren is a small, brown bird with a bubbly song common in open areas and hedgerows. The male builds several partially completed nests in almost any kind of enclosed space for his mate. Wren nests have been found in old woodpecker holes, crevices of buildings, drainpipes, and even shoes. The female will then choose her favorite nest and complete it to her preference before laying eggs.

Red-winged blackbirds typically inhabit marshes but may also be found in meadows or farm fields. The plain, brown females string their nests between thick-growing vegetation such as cattails and bulrushes in marshes, goldenrod in meadows, and wheat or alfalfa in cultivated fields. The nest is built just above the ground or water out of many layers of wet leaves, decayed wood, mud, and dry grasses. 

Songbird nests must be large enough to accommodate 1-4 eggs, the incubating parent, and then the chicks once they hatch. Circumference varies depending on species, as, per common sense, larger birds need larger nests than smaller birds. Depth of the nest varies depending on bird species as well. The nest must be deep enough to hold the chicks once they are hatched, but not so deep that the incubating parent is not sitting on the eggs properly.

My robin didn’t end up robbing my windsock of its streamer, but I’ve no doubt that it will find other more suitable material in our woods with which to build this year’s nest.

By Gabrielle L. Wheeler

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