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.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nesting Questions

I found a pile of female cardinal feathers in the yard last month. I had been watching the male and female bouncing around the evergreens feeding each other and then one day the male was all alone calling for a mate. It took him about a month to find a new female. Yesterday we watched the new female build a nest nearby with twigs from our honeysuckle bush while the male watched excitedly. Life is very fragile.

This is the time of year to have the number of a licensed rehabilitator handy. If you find a baby bird that is too young to fly, put it back in the nest. The mother will appreciate the help. However, if you find a baby bird that is old enough to fly, but isn't, chances are it is learning. If you look, you will see the mother nearby. Leave these older birds alone and let them learn to fly undisturbed.

If you're not sure call for help before you do anything. For a list of licensed rehabilitators click HERE. Or visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at: http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/

Sarah, My question today: I have a nesting Killdeer out front of my house. The poor thing is sitting there in snow, rain, & wind with no protection from weather or critters. If I was to back the back end of my pickup over to straddle the nest, do you think that would upset her to the point she would abandon the nest? At least it would provide some protection from the rain & snow. And a dog would be kept away also. I could leave the truck there until I saw some little ones. I know God has this all figured out, but I thought I might help. Bill

To be honest I don’t know if they would appreciate that or not. Day after day the mother and father killdeer can take turns sitting on eggs no matter the weather. Killdeer are tolerant of humans and probably wouldn’t abandon the nest if you drove your truck over them, but I’d just leave them alone. If they have to abandon the nest they’ll start another one soon.

The parents don’t start sitting on the eggs to incubate them until all the eggs have been laid. So even though the first-laid egg spends a longer time in the shell than the last-laid, all the killdeer chicks have the same development period. It takes 24 to 28 days of incubating for the chicks to hatch, hopefully on a warm, sunny day! Sarah

Hi Bloubird, I have a question for you; a Mallard Female has made a nest outside of our home. We live in a small suburb of Detroit. What should I do about this? I have been giving her some wheat bread and I did look up that I should get some possible duck food or corn. Can you help? I am an animal lover and want to know what I should do. Thank you for your response. Harriet

Mallard eggs in a nest in a forest few hundred...Image via Wikipedia
The best thing to do is just let her forage on her own. She wouldn't appreciate any food near her nest that would call attention or bring predators near. Mallards eat a variety of things including insects and larvae, aquatic invertebrates, seeds, nuts, grasses, aquatic vegetation, and whole grains.

While the hen is incubating her eggs she usually leaves her nest for only about an hour in the morning and evening to feed. The rest of the time, she tries to remain invisible.

I wrote about the nesting habits of mallards in an earlier post at: http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2011/03/mallard-nesting-behavior-can-i-move.html

A lot of ducks and geese feel safe nesting near humans. If everything goes according to plan, she’ll be there for about a month. Then within a 24 hour period the chicks will hatch and the hen will march her brood to the nearest wetland.

I hope that helps, Sarah

Thank you so much for your input. It does set my mind at ease. I did notice there are about 10 or 12 eggs. Do all of them hatch? This is so fascinating. I did put out some cut up lettuce, cucumber and some wheat bread but I will do as you said about just let nature take its course. Thanks again. Harriet

That is a very good question! An unhatched or dud egg left behind would be an unwelcome surprise in the summer.

After the mother duck has left with her hatchlings you can dispose of any unhatched eggs. The whole clutch may hatch but if one didn't, I would bury it in the garden. The calcium in the shell would be good for the plants. Thanks, Sarah
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1 comment:

Sandra Tomey said...

I have a question, my daughter lives in Michigan and she and her boys were so excited to have a killdeer nest in their backyard. The eggs were laid and mom was sitting on the nest. This was for a little over two weeks, then this morning, the nest was empty, no mom, no eggs. It is like they just disappeared over night. Their was no cracked eggs or egg shells. Do you think a snake got the eggs, or what could have happened. Thanks.