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Test Your Knowledge of Bird Nests
By Dawn Hewitt
Managing Editor | Bird Watcher's Digest
It is officially spring! Sunrise is earlier, and sunset is later; trees are budding, and the overnight temperatures aren't quite as cold as they were a month ago. Here in the East, eastern phoebes and other early migrating songbirds are being reported, and it won't be long before the dawn chorus will inspire us to sleep with our windows open! While great-horned owls and other early breeders are already incubating, April is a time for nest-building for many year-round resident bird species. This seems like an appropriate time to test your knowledge of bird nests.
Which type of bird built this nest?
Hint: The bird that built this nest was yellow or orange.
Which species of bird built this nest?
a) Cliff swallow
b) Barn swallow
c) Bank swallow
d) Tree swallow
Hint: This bird frequently chooses human-made structures—as well as natural vertical rock surfaces—for nest sites.
What kind of nest does a belted-kingfisher build?
a) Cup made of grass and sticks in a willow tree
b) Excavated burrow in a stream bank
c) Shallow scrape on a sand bar
d) A used woodpecker hole in a tree
Which of these birds builds its nest on the ground?
a) Horned lark
c) Kirtland's warbler
d) All of the above
Hint: More birds nest on the ground than you might realize!
Which of these birds nests in cavities?
a) Hermit thrush
b) Warbling vireo
c) Prothonotary warbler
d) Song sparrow
Hint: This bird's nest site is usually within 15 feet of standing water or in low-lying areas prone to flooding.
Which of these species nests in colonies?
a) Purple martin
b) Great blue heron
c) Ring-billed gull
d) All of the above
Which of these birds builds a nest that floats on water?
a) Pied-billed grebe
b) Brown pelican
c) Laughing gull
d) Green-winged teal
Hint: Within an hour of hatching, the young birds climb onto a parent's back for a ride around the lake.
Which of these birds lays its eggs in other birds' nests?
a) Yellow-billed cuckoo
b) Brown-headed cowbird
c) Common goldeneye
d) All of the above
Editor | Bird Watcher's Digest
Spring is the start of the breeding season for most of our North American birds. They pair up with mates, build nests, lay eggs, raise young, and then some of them repeat the cycle—as many as three times. There are some things that you can do to assist your backyard birds at this busy time of year. Here they are, in the time-honored Top Ten format.
10. Keep your cat inside (and ask your neighbors to do the same). Cats take an incredible toll on songbirds, but low-nesting species and their young are especially vulnerable to cat predation. Do the birds a favor and keep this unnatural predator away from places where birds nest.
9. Provide nest boxes. It may seem obvious, but a well-placed nest box can mean the difference between nesting success and failure for a cavity-nesting bird. It's hard for many species to compete with starlings and house sparrows, which can take all the best cavities. For great advice on being a landlord to the birds, read A Guide to Bird Homes, published by BWD Press (1-800-879-2473).
8. Hold off trimming hedges and shrubs. Lots of species use small hedges and shrubs for nesting. If you see a bird building a nest in such a place on your property, you've got a great excuse to avoid this bit of yard work for the next month or two.
7. Put out short pieces of fiber, string, and yarn. For birds that build woven nests (orioles, some sparrows, robins, and others), a few short pieces of yarn can come in mighty handy during building time. Offer the pieces in an onion bag or in a small basket. Keep the pieces shorter than two inches to reduce the risk of birds getting tangled in them.