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Nature in Winter – Bird Nests.

February 8, 2014

It’s time for another look at Nature in Winter, a series of posts based upon the book A Guide to Nature in Winter by Donald and Lillian Stokes that examines topics of interest in the coldest season.  Here’s the previous entries:

Nature in Winter – Snow.

Nature in Winter – Winter Weeds.

Nature in Winter – Tracks in the Snow.

There is a section in the book on bird nests.

Birds’ nests are more obvious in winter than in any other season.  What were leafy forms and dense thickets are now merely a few branches, often revealing the once secret spot where a bird built a nest then raised its young.

It’s not very intuitive to think of nesting birds in winter, but it certainly is far easier to see nests when the trees are without leaves!

nest 020613 3

nest 020613Particularly after it snows, nests can stand out- simply look for the pile of snow on top.  These nests were in thickets perhaps 6 feet off the ground- I’d walked by these thickets in warm weather and never knew they had nests in them.

By the way, the book describes 7 general types of nests- I’m going to guess that the first picture- which seems to be a medium sized nest of mud and grass- is of a Robin’s nest.

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This nest has Sycamore Tree fruit woven into the nest- whatever works!

Good places to look for nests are along the edges of fields and clearings, and among shrubs and low trees.

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The above 2 nests were in scrubby fields only a few feet above the ground, and were most likely Sparrow nests.  I was surprised to see an egg in the one nest, though it was cracked and the liquid had leaked out.

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I saw a Song Sparrow singing in this young tree in the warm weather, so I bet this nest was his- not that I saw it when leaves covered the sapling…

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This large nest of good-sized twigs and branches was probably a Hawk nest.  They like sturdy taller trees like this Sycamore.

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I found this grass cup nest on the ground- I’m not sure it was placed there or fell from a tree to the ground.  Some birds do nest on the ground, though.

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This is a unique nest- it’s basically a globe of woven grass.  I’m guessing this is a Vireo nest.  Oriole nests look similar to this, though they tend to be sock-shaped.  These nests are very sturdy and tend to last long after they’ve been used.

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You may notice large collections of leaves in trees- they aren’t bird nests, they are squirrel dreys, places where squirrels sleep.

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I pay attention to where bird nests are in winter, so I can get a basic idea of where they may be in the leafy warm seasons when they’re hard to see.  From the amount of nests I see in the cold season, there is plenty of nesting going on right under my nose!

24 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2014 10:07 pm

    Wonderful post

  2. February 8, 2014 10:34 pm

    Every winter I’m amazed at the number of nests that I see once the leaves are off the trees, great post to highlight this!

    • February 8, 2014 10:54 pm

      Thanks! I was seeing so many of them that I decided to start taking pictures of them- sure enough, there’s a ton of them out there!

  3. February 8, 2014 11:28 pm

    Tracy, I just walked around the garden yesterday and noticed several nests nestled into the smaller trees and shrubs – can’t wait to see the summer birds return!

    • February 9, 2014 9:51 am

      Keep an eye out for them, Composer- what made them a good place to nest will be just as true this coming spring 🙂

  4. February 9, 2014 10:12 am

    Yes, a wonderful post. I love seeing the nests. Thank you.

  5. February 9, 2014 4:26 pm

    Great post, Tracy. You found some really interesting nests. I noticed a few when I was out walking yesterday. I never would have seen them once the trees and shrubs have leafed out.

  6. February 9, 2014 5:18 pm

    That’s a very sensible idea.

  7. February 9, 2014 6:29 pm

    I’m always surprised how many I’ve walked by without noticing too. I’m seeing a lot of squirrel nests here this year.

  8. February 9, 2014 7:34 pm

    So many interesting things can be seen in winter.

  9. February 10, 2014 11:35 am

    Great post! It reminds me that every spring I used to walk around my grandparents’ fields, and go ‘birds’-nesting’, i.e. looking for nests that were being built or already in use. I think this is something people used to do for generations.

  10. mary biscuso permalink
    February 10, 2014 3:24 pm

    I love to look for nests now! It’s amazing to me how many are in my Clintonville neighborhood, right under (well, make that above) my nose, often in the tree lawn!

    OK, now for a question: I kind of remember you writing about a robin who would come for the winter. I remember that you said you left him raisins.

    We have a male robin in the Dublin Library garden; he picked all the dogwood and crabapple fruits from the trees, then sat around looking miserable, He also spent a lot of energy banging at the big windows (not sure if this was a territorial thing?)

    So, we’ve been putting out raisins on the ground, next to the windows. Since eating them for a few days, he looks much better, he’s stronger, and has more energy. Question: should we supplement the raisins with other food? He’s so bold that he comes up to the window, tapping at it when he’s ready for refills!

    Will he go back up north later? Thanks for any info you can provide. We’re becoming quite fond of him.

    • February 10, 2014 3:38 pm

      Hey, that’s great to hear, Mary! I remember the Dublin Library garden courtyard area well!

      I’ve been feeding a Robin for a month now, only giving him raisins. He sits in the bush by my front door and comes down with the first raisin I toss from the doorway. He’s going strong on that. I wondered about giving him a variety of food too, but when you think of it, for the Robins that winter over, they’re eating mostly the same type of berries they can find right now, so that’s probably good enough to tide them over to warmer weather which brings the insects they like to eat.

      My thinking is that the Robins that do stay here all winter will stay year-round. The ones I’ve fed over the years seem to be males (they have black heads, females have gray heads), and I’m guessing they are getting an early jump on setting up a territory to attract a female Robin in early spring. You may notice the bird being agitated by and chasing off other Robins- if so, that’s a guy being territorial. Your Robin tapping on the window might be a male ‘battling’ his own reflection as a rival…or maybe he is asking for more food because he’s found that that works!

      I keep one of those big raisin tubs you can get at the grocery store handy. Mine shows up first thing in the morning and stays till about an hour or so before dark (he roosts somewhere nearby where he can stay out of the wind I imagine- I’ve seen Robins gather in groups in evergreen shrubs along the apartment buildings where I live). Other Robins I see are in flocks searching for berry bushes and trees- my Robin gets agitated when they’re around because he’s being territorial or he’s defending ‘his’ raisin food supply- or both.

      It sounds to me like you are doing the right thing- usually what happens is after the winter weather is over in March the Robin I feed stops coming for raisins- presumably he can now find early insects stirring in the grass and mulch, and/or he’s found a mate and they are nesting somewhere nearby.

      Glad to hear I’m not the only one feeding a Robin! 🙂

      Here’s a post about this subject:

  11. February 10, 2014 6:24 pm

    Hi Seasons, Nice to see such good photo’s of the different nests. Yes, big collections of sticks and leaves can often be squirrels’ dreys. Drey is a great name for that kind of nest-like home. Have a super good Tuesday tomorrow, and coming week ahead!

    • February 10, 2014 6:46 pm

      Thanks, Wildlifewatcher! I rarely see a squirrel in a drey, though I have seen them being built!

  12. March 30, 2014 8:32 pm

    It is fun to watch a squirrel build its drey . We can always tell when they are, they seem to drop a lot of their building materials! There’s always one directly above the bird feeding station! Great shots of so many nests. You’re right, winter is the season to find them.


  1. Nature In Winter – Insects. | Seasons Flow

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