Saturday, June 7, 2008

Birds Experience Housing Crisis Too

Unusual nesting sites of birds are always interesting, especially when the nesters use locations that aren't in the books.

Some years ago an article appeared in the Atlanta Constitution of an unusual mockingbird's nest. Adelaide and Laurance Sawyer of Ringgold, GA, put up a log bird house for bluebirds with a metal flange around the opening to exclude larger birds. An arbor supported the 10-foot pole. The arbor, the pole and the bluebird house were supported by trellises for growing tomatoes and climbing beans, come spring.

In the spring, before the bluebirds could nest, a yellow-shafted flicker comes bouncing in and tries to enlarge the cavity. Day after day he works at it. His constant drilling gains the sympathy of the Sawyers and they remove the flange thinking they are helping the flicker. That does it. He doesn't want anyone messing around with the construction of his house and never returns.

To their surprise a pair of mockingbirds become interested in the bluebird house. One day they see both birds go into the box. One goes in and stays. When the Sawyers check, they find one egg . . . a mocker's egg in a mocker's nest.

If another article was in the paper giving the outcome of the nesting, I missed it. I never knew if they completed incubation and the youngsters fledged.

On our bluebird trail we had a mockingbird build in a hanging basket of begonias on the porch of a family who had one of our bluebird boxes on their premises. Eggs were laid in the nest but they disappeared. There were no clues as to what happened to the eggs. The birds didn't attempt another nesting in the basket.

To our surprise and excitement, a robin started a nest in somewhat of a crotch on a slopping branch of a sweet gum tree outside our living room window. It was not saddled on the branch as usual, but about half of it hung somewhat like an oriole's nest from the unstable fork.

One day it looked as if it were complete. That afternoon a strong thunder shower came through the area and the nest was thrown to the ground. I examined the fallen nest. The same materials were used as in other robin's nests. The nest was not as large as usual, but the inside depth seemed to be about the same.

The next day the female starts another nest using some of the material from the nest nature had foreclosed on. She placed the nest on the same spot on the branch. In a few days it appeared to be near completion. It was not meant to be. A strong wind comes out of the west and brings destruction to the second nest.

Two days later the robin was busy rebuilding . . . same style, same spot, same materials.

Again, in a few days, the nest appears ready for use. A determined mother, wouldn't you say? A few mornings later we find this nest on the ground. At the time, no eggs were in the nest.

There had been no wind nor rain. We never knew what brought the third nest down. She used mud on it, as all robins do, and that makes a robin's nest heavy and not very suitable for swinging in the wind.