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The Nest

Jan 18, 2016

A deserted bird nest raises curiosity like an old, deserted house does. What’s the house like inside? What was the family like who lived here?

Bird nests are not houses. They’re really more like incubators and nurseries. Birds build nests at breeding time for shelters to incubate eggs and rear young. When the young of the season are fledged, everyone vacates the nest. For most kinds of birds it won’t be used again, ever.

Now is a good time to examine deserted bird nests. Leafless trees and bushes betray nests they once concealed. Bird nests must withstand fierce winds, heavy rains and hail. When you find a nest, there may be dried mud, grasses, twigs, mosses, lichens, feathers or hair. Occasionally, you’ll discover yarn, or other manmade odds and ends. They build their nests by deftly weaving and applying mortar with their beaks.

Each bird species builds a particular kind of nest. You can identify nests and learn more about them and their makers by taking along a nest identification field guide on your next winter walk. They are available in most libraries and bookstores.

Build A Bluebird Box

  1. You’ll need a board 5 feet long, 6 inches wide and 1 inch thick, plus some nails or screws. Cedar lumber is best, but other types of wood can be used. Avoid treated lumber because the chemicals are toxic to birds.
  2. You’ll also need safety glasses, a tape measure, a saw, and a hammer or screwdriver.
  3. Follow these bluebird box plans.

Bluebirds are picky about where they nest. Here’s how to persuade a pair to use your box.

  1. Put your box up before March.
  2. Select an open, grassy area with scattered trees such as a backyard or pasture. Avoid brushy areas unless you want house wrens in your bluebird box.
  3. Hang your box 4 to 6 feet high on a post. Face the box toward a tree or shrub. Bluebirds will hang out there to watch for insects to pounce upon.
  4. Space boxes at least 125 yards apart. Bluebirds need plenty of room to find food for themselves and their babies.
  5. In March, begin checking your bluebird box once a week. Bluebirds lay 2 to 7 pale blue eggs in a tidy, cup-shaped nest of woven grass. Starlings and house sparrows build messy nests using many different materials. Remove sparrow and starling nests. Your box is for bluebirds!
  6. Once a bluebird pair begins nesting, you can peek in on the family until the babies are 13 days old. After that, leave the box alone so the young aren’t spooked into leaving the nest too early.
  7. Clean out old nests as soon as the young leave. Chances are good that the bluebird parents will nest a second or even third time!

Learn more about building a bluebird box with Xplor.

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Photo of two juvenile bald eagles in nest
Bald Eagle Nest
A bald eagle nest is large and can be 13 feet deep and 8 feet across.

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Chicks in a robin nest
Robin Nest
Chicks wait for their mother to bring food in an American robin's nest.

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