About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Common Backyard Bird Nest Identification

The art applied to building a nest is very individual for each bird species.

Bluebird, Eastern – a neat, woven cup-shaped nest made mainly from fine grass or pine needles inside an old woodpecker nest or bird house.

Cardinal, Northern – Builds cup-shaped nest low in dense shrub from twigs, weeds, grass, and leaves.

Chickadee, Black-capped – Another cavity nester that starts building her nest with a moss base and tops it with animal fur or cottony plant fibers.

Cowbird, Brown-headed - Cowbirds do not build their own nest – Instead they lay one egg in several nests and let other birds foster their young.

Dove, Mourning – On the fork of a shrub or tree or sometimes on the ground or on an outside workbench or gutter. Doves are known for their inappropriate nesting sites. Nest is usually a fragile, shallow platform of twigs made by the male.

Goldfinch, American – Nests in August. At a fork of a deciduous tree the female builds a nest from grass and spider silk and lines it with plant down and hair.

House Finch – Messy cup-shaped nest made of twigs, grasses, plant fibers, leaves, rootlets, hairs, string and wool, lichens. Sometimes nest in wreaths on doors of houses or hanging plants.

House Sparrow – Tall messy nest made from a collection of loose litter, grasses, feathers and more stuffed into a bird house.

Hummingbird, Ruby-throated – Female alone constructs cup-shaped nests with a diameter about the same size as a quarter. They start to build with bud scales and spider webs and then camouflage the outside with lichen. To cushion the inside of the nest they use cotton or some other plant fluff like dandelions.

Jay, Blue – Male and female build bulky stick nest in a crotch of a tree or tall shrub.

Oriole, Baltimore – Nests high in deciduous trees. Female weaves a hanging pouch at the end of a branch from grasses, plant stems and grape vines and then lines it with fine grasses and animal fur.

Robin, American – Builds sturdy cup nest in coniferous or deciduous tree or shrub. Made from grass, moss and loose bark and cemented with mud.

Swallow, Tree – Inside a bird house they build a cup-shaped nest of grass or pine needles, usually lined with lots of fluffy feathers to cover the eggs.

Woodpeckers – Most of Michigan’s woodpeckers use their chisel-like bills to excavate their cavity nests in trees, and line it with woodchips. They will also use a bird house that is packed with wood chips.

Wren, House – Male fills a many bird houses full of twigs and lets the female choose. Females then take over building the nest with cottony spider cocoons, fine fibers and downy feathers.
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5 comments:

  1. I found a small nest in a pine tree. It has one very small pink egg and a slightly larger blue egg(not a robin). Does anyone know what kind off bird layed these?

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    1. I forgot to say I live in Illinois

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    2. There are a lot of birds that lay blue eggs. For example, bluebirds, robins and other thrushes all have blue-colored eggs. House Finches also have blue eggs that are smaller than a robin’s egg and like to nest in pines or hanging wreaths or plants.

      Blue eggs develop after the deposit of biliverdin while the eggshell is forming during the last 5 hours before the egg is laid. Biliverdin is a breakdown of hemoglobin and diverting these chemicals for the use in coloring eggs may be costly for females.

      If there is a temporary impairment of the reproductive tract, a common abnormality that results is a “runt” egg. These eggs are noticeably smaller and can be a different shape or color too. Runt eggs are not necessarily the first or last egg and occur in clutches across a wide variety of bird species.

      There are some studies that find younger birds tend to have runt eggs more often than older birds. These small eggs do not hatch due to some internal abnormality but the other eggs in the clutch should develop just fine.

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  2. I live in Phoenix, AZ. There have been nests built in my ironwood tree, and the palo brea tree next to it each year. The nest is completely enclosed, about the size of a football, with a perfect round hole on the side or underneath, complete with a porch roof. The nest is made of sage twigs intertwined with the tree branches at the end of a limb, 10-15' above the ground. It takes the little female 2 weeks to construct the nest. It is lined with feathers and sometimes small blossoms until no light can be seen inside the nest. The bird is about 2.5 inches long, sparrow grey/brown in color, with a short beak. The male has a pale yellow breast and belly. The female makes a single sharp chirp. I think they feed on the thistle seed feeder I have nearby.

    The nest is reused by the bird. If the monsoons disfigure the nest, a cactus wren roosts but does not lay in the nest. I have seen the nest repurposed into a dog dish and blue eggs laid in the open nest.

    What is the name of the little bird with the fascinating nest?

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  3. I live in Westerncentral PA near the Ohio border. Similar football-haped nest (reminds me of a wasp nest, but of twigs?) HIGH up in deciduous, oak/maple wood, near highway. Side opening. "Who" lives there? I live part of the year in NW AZ, and PA is a long way from AZ!

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