Fun Facts about Nesting

Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Spring is just around the corner and nesting season is almost upon us! In fact, some early nesters, such as Mourning Doves, may have already begun the mating and nest selection process.

While a bird's primary concern for a nesting site is security and protection from predators, close proximity of a food source is a vital concern if their offspring are to succeed in leaving the nest.  The more food nearby that's easily obtained, the more time the parents can spend choosing a nest site, creating the nest, and ultimately, raising and defending the chicks.

A study published in the England’s Royal Society journal Biology Letters found that birds who enjoyed access to feeders (and the nutrition they provide) during the winter, will lay their clutch of eggs earlier and will fledge an average of one more chick per clutch than their counterparts without access to feeders.

Curious to know more about these exciting backyard events? Read on!



One of the most common backyard visitors here in Simcoe County is the Black-capped Chickadee. These birds are cavity nesters and may excavate their own nest site, use an old woodpecker hole or are happy to use a nesting box. While both parents-to-be excavate the site, it's the female who chooses it's location and builds the nest using moss for the structure, and soft fur for the lining.



Creatures of habit, Robins usually return to the same area to nest each year and may occasionally use last year’s nest again after some renovation.  When creating a nest, they will use mud to give it strength. If you'd like to help, you can put out a small pan of mud and nesting materials (short strings, yarn, dry grasses) and watch the robins come collect materials to make their nests.

Unlike most birds, robins do not lay their eggs at sunrise, instead laying their eggs during the mid-morning. It is believed that since earthworms are easier to find in the early morning, they feed first and then return to their nest to lay their egg.



A Mourning Doves’ nest is a joint effort, and consists of sticks woven together by the female with materials collected by the male. A prolific breeder (in fact, they have the most nesting cycles of any North American bird), they may have up to six clutches per year of about two eggs each.  That's a lot of baby doves!

Both parents feed their young on “crop milk,” a yogurt-like secretion produced by the walls of their crop. It takes both parents to provide enough food for the growing nestlings - if one is lost during the first seven days, the young will not be able to survive on the food from the remaining adult.



Waiting on the natural thistle seed sources they prefer, the American Goldfinch is one of the latest breeding songbirds, waiting to nest until mid-to-late summer. They will even delay breeding until the greatest number of thistle, dandelion and other composite flowers are seeding if needed.

American Goldfinches prefer to nest in habitats with trees and shrubs and usually place their nest four to ten feet high, often near a water source (such as a bird bath).



During the breeding season, male cardinals may sing 200 or more songs an hour in the early morning hours (the female also sings, quite often while sitting on her nest).  Watch how busy he is once his mate is on the nest, providing her food and protecting the nest.  Check out this video to watch both parents tending to their young, it's definitely a group effort in this family.

As they leave the nest and become larger, young Northern Cardinals can be identified by their black bills (rather than the orange-red of the adults). It gradually changes over about three to four months after hatching.


I hope you've enjoyed our look into some of the nesting habits of our local birds! Tune in later this month when we look at even more fun nesting facts.  Happy Birding! ~Jen

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