Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Goldfinch Nest

I was wandering through the field, tracking down the last of the Teasel, when a female Goldfinch suddenly shot out of this small Flowering Dogwood.  I’m used to Goldfinches chattering away as they move around in small flocks from one feeding site to another.  A lone bird hiding in a tree must mean there’s something special about that tree.

I moved closer and could detect a brown mass concealed by the leaves.  A nest.  Small shrubs and trees in a generally open field are heavily utilized as nest sites by many bird species.  The nests are difficult to see while the leaves are on.  In early winter, when the leaves have all dropped, the nests are quite conspicuous.

Goldfinches typically lay between four and six eggs, so this nest could still receive another egg or two. 

The nests are commonly lined with pappus collected from thistle seed heads.  Pappus is the fluffy material attached to the thistle seed that allows the seed to be lifted by the wind and carried to distant locations.  The tall thistle species are just beginning to bloom at Blue Jay Barrens, so they are not yet a source of pappus.  I believe this nest lining came from the shorter and earlier blooming Pasture Thistle, Cirsium pumilum.

There’s not much chance of this nest being dislodged from the tree. The sides of the nest are strongly anchored to a half dozen stout branches.

Spider webs are used on the cup edge and the outside of the nest to help hold the material in place.

While admiring the Goldfinch nest, I noticed a similar brown mass in a nearby Redbud.

I believe this to be the nest of an Indigo Bunting.  I’ve seen active bunting nests and this matches what I’ve seen before.

I periodically remove the trees and shrubs growing in this field when they begin to overtop the prairie grass.  When they are small, the trees serve a valuable function as nesting structures.  Fortunately, there are always new volunteers coming along to take the place of those specimens I remove. 

No comments:

Post a Comment