Friday, November 21, 2014

Bird Nests in the Field

I know that a lot of birds nest in the tall grass fields.  Even so, it’s rare to actually find one of the nests in the grass.  Where I always do find nests is in the small trees and shrubs growing hidden among the grass stems.  This Field Sparrow nest was nestled into the lower branches of one of the smaller Flowering Dogwoods.

Field Sparrows are quite common in the fields of prairie grasses and will generally raise two broods of young each year.  The early season nests are produced when the field vegetation is still short, so the nests are constructed on or close to the ground where there is plenty of cover.  By the time the birds construct their second nest, the grasses have grown up to engulf the small shrubs and trees.  Late season nests are regularly built in the lower branches of these grass hidden woody species.

When this Field Sparrow nest was in use, the surrounding grass was probably taller than the Deerberry bush in which the nest was built.  The combination of grass and leafy shrub would have made the nest impossible to see.

The woody shrub seems a wise location for a nest.  Summer storms can sometimes put the tall grass stalks through some wild gyrations that could easily damage a fragile nest.  The support offered by the shrub would protect the nest from such wild storm events.

Goldfinches are abundant here and regularly use the small trees in the field as nest sites.  Most nests are located between four and eight feet above the ground in the branches of Flowering Dogwoods.  This nest is typical of what I find each year after the leaves have fallen.

A couple of Goldfinch pairs used the young Persimmons as nesting sites.  These trees have since been cut, so they won’t be available next year.  However, there are still plenty of Dogwoods left for use as nest trees.

The nest has weathered a bit since the fledging of the young birds, but the thistle down lining is still easy to see.
This nest, secured in the upper branches of a young Persimmon, appeared to have collected leaves and twigs in the cup.  I bent the tree over to clear the debris and have a look at the nest construction.

Instead of leaves, I found what was left of the young birds.  Not all nestlings survive, but it’s unusual to find the bodies like this.  They may have succumbed to disease or parasites or weather or loss of the parent birds or something else entirely.  It’s sad to find things like this, but it might be worse in a different way if all young animals managed to reach adulthood.

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