Category Archives: Bird Nesting

Nesters on the Nature Trail

Trail Entrance

Peachtree Park Nature Trail – Darlington Commons Entrance

The Peachtree Park Nature Trail is a gem tucked in along the southeast boundary of the neighborhood.   When you walk this path, have you considered how much wildlife this little spot of land supports?

As a part of Ryan Tuemler’s Eagle Scout merit badge, he built four bluebird-size houses and installed them along the trail.  Here’s the cool part: three of Ryan’s four houses have birds nesting in them right now!  The one closest to the community garden appears to still be waiting on occupants.  Thanks Ryan!  Hope things are well at West Point and wish you were here to see what you’ve done.

Birdhouse #2 has Eastern Bluebirds.  This video shows they are hard at work feeding their chicks.

Take a stroll down the Nature Trail and tell us which bird you think is in house #1 and house #3.  Please read our notes on etiquette and take care not to disturb the hard-working parents.

While we were checking out the birdhouses yesterday, we noticed a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers who have built their own nest in the top of a snag near house #3.  So awesome to see in our neighborhood!

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped establish and are maintaining this trail!

Notes on Etiquette

Juts a few things to remember when watching nesters:

  • Keep a safe distance from the birdhouse: 20 – 30 feet is good – you can see a lot from this respectful distance.
  • Be patient. Bird parents are especially skittish when they’ve got babies. But if you’re quiet and still, they will think you’re safe and continue feeding.
  • Don’t go up to the birdhouse and certainly don’t touch it.
  • Don’t check the house early in the morning.  Also, avoid the nest at dusk and at night.
  • If you think you’ve disturbed the birds, then back up a little and give them some more room.

Nesting season is off to a great start!  Let us know who you have nesting in your yard.

Nuthatches Need Your Help

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch populations are declining in many areas.  In fact, the brown-headed nuthatch is considered by some experts to be the least common nuthatch in North America.  Brown-headed nuthatches prefer mature pine forests, and loss of this habitat has played a major role in their decline. [1]

They are small industrious birds and are fun to watch.  It’s easy to tell when they are around because their call sounds like a small squeaky toy.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatches nesting in a snag

The good news is that, so far, they seem to be doing well in Peachtree Park.  We’ve noticed them nesting here in birdhouses and snags for the last several years.

But that’s not to say that they don’t still need your help.  It’s nesting season, and you can do a lot for this little bird by putting up a birdhouse.  Atlanta Audubon’s Nest Boxes for Nuthatches page has information on how you can buy or build your own nest box along with other information about the Brown-headed nuthatch.

Below is a short video of a pair nesting in a birdhouse mounted on a snag just down the street from us (thanks for leaving the snag!)  The video was recorded yesterday and today.  We think they are still building the nest because you can see nesting material in one Nuthatch’s mouth at the beginning of the clip.

These photos were taken in Peachtree Park and there are two additional Brown-headed Nuthatch videos on our Bird Videos page.

[1]  Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Birdhouses in High Demand

It is spring after all.  It’s time.  Stake out your territory, find a mate and start a family.  Here are three houses that have boarders and another with a serious prospect.

Our friends Greg and Stephanie three houses down have a Bluebird house on a pine snag in their front yard, but Brown-headed Nuthatches beat them to the punch.  We’ve seen Nuthatches nest in a box and once their chicks fledge, the Bluebirds will come along behind them with their own family.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens here this year.

And some Nuthatches are checking out a house in our front yard, but so far no takers.

Brown-headed Nuthatch - Sitta pusilla Peachtree Park, Atlanta, GA - March, 2016

Brown-headed Nuthatch inspecting our birdhouse

In the back yard Carolina Chickadees have found their spot and one of the building projects close by is helping with insulation for nesting material.

And some really good news: the bluebirds who have used the house in the Darlington Road triangle are back!  They’ve been coming back to this spot almost every year since 2007.  Watch our video from 2014 on Bluebirds in this house.

Eastern Bluebird - Sialia sialis Peachtree Park, Atlanta, GA - March, 2016

Eastern Bluebird on March 25, 2016

If you’d like to build a house of your own, check out our page on birdhouse dimensions.

Late Starters

Female Goldfinch on Agastache

Female Goldfinch on Agastache

You thought nesting season was over for this year.  And, except for goldfinches, you’re right. The American goldfinch begins its breeding season later in the year than any other finch and later than any other native North American bird except, occasionally, the sedge wren.  Their breeding season is tied to the peak of their food supply, beginning in late July, which is relatively late.

Male Goldfinch on Agastache

Male Goldfinch on Agastache

The pictures of the two Goldfinches eating Agastache seed on our back deck were taken on July 17, 2015.  The male is the brighter colored of the two.  Notice that the beak of the female is pinkish, indicating that she’s breeding.  You can see a short video we took in July 2013 of two Goldfinches eating from the same Agastache plants.

The American Goldfinch is a granivore and adapted for the consumption of seedheads. Its diet consists of the seeds from a wide variety of plants, including weeds, grasses and trees, such as thistle, dandelion, ragweed, goatsbeard, sunflower, and alder.  It also consumes tree buds, maple sap, and berries. Goldfinches will eat at bird feeders, particularly in the winter months, preferring Nyjger seed (nyjer is different from thistle: it comes from Africa and will not sprout). In our yard, they especially love the bird feeders as well as the dried seedheads of Agastache, Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans.

Their nest is built in late summer by the female in the branches of a deciduous shrub or tree at a height of up to 30 feet.  The inside diameter of the finished nest is about 2 1/2 inches.  The rim is reinforced with bark bound by spiderwebs and caterpillar silk, and the cup is lined with plant down from milkweed, thistle, or cattail. The nest is so tightly woven that it can hold water, and it’s possible for nestlings to drown following a rainstorm if the parents don’t cover the nest.

American Goldfinches at bird feeders

American Goldfinches at bird feeders

The chicks hatch 12–14 days after incubation begins. The hatchlings develop quickly, opening their eyes after three days, and completing the growth of olive-brown juvenile plumage after 11–15 days, at which time they begin to practice short flights close to the nest. Then, they join their parents at bird feeders, which is why you’ll notice a spike in the number of Goldfinches in August.

Emergency Nest Relocation

Carolina Wren-2

wren nesting in in a bug zapper

We’re spending a wonderful week in St. Simons, Georgia!  We were delighted to find Carolina Wrens nesting in a defunct bug zapper (resourceful parents).  But we were worried because pressure washers and painters would be arriving any time to spruce up the area.  Delaying the work wasn’t an option, so we consulted some bird experts and decided to attempt moving the house out of harm’s way.  This was a last resort option and we would never move a nest except in an extreme situation and without expert advice.

Carolina Wren-3

midway through the relocation project

We did the relocation step-by-step over the course of a couple days allowing a few hours pause between moves.  We monitored closely to make sure the parents continued regular feedings.  First, we moved a ladder close to the existing house so the birds could get used to it.  Then we relocated the house to the ladder at the same height – this was the riskiest step.  Finally,  we moved the ladder out of harm’s way a few feet at a time, making sure the house was always facing the same direction.

Hooray!  It worked!!!  The parents continued the regular feedings. And two days later we were ecstatic when the chicks fledged.

Science in the Backyard

installing the netFor the second year, Stella and Jack Wissner have hosted representatives from the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center and Neighborhood Nestwatch Program.  Stella is a master birder and an active member of Atlanta Audubon.

This past Sunday Adam Eichenwald and Julie Downs, Smithsonian representatives, arrived at 6:30 AM. Adam has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Science from Bowdoin in Maine, and Julie is an Auburn graduate with a Bachelor’s in Wildlife Ecology and Management.

Cardinal in netThey went straight to work and set up two nets in Stella and Jack’s back yard.  The nets are a few feet off the ground, about 20 feet long and 6 feet high, and are made of very fine black webbing which makes them practically invisible.  Then everybody waits until a bird flies into the net.

BandingVery carefully a captured bird is extracted, measured, weighed, banded and released.  The results are recorded and entered into the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Program database and a copy is given to Stella and Jack.  Then all year, as they watch birds come to their feeders, they can tell if it’s one that they helped identify.  They forward information on their sightings back to the Smithsonian.

Releasing

As if that weren’t enough, two active nests were discovered in the shrubbery.  One in the back yard had two Eastern Towhee chicks, and a second in a shrub in their neighbor’s yard had three Northern Mockingbird eggs. Towhee chicks Northern Mockingbird Eggs

Being in the Wissner’s back yard is like being in a hardwood forest, full of bird song and activity.  Sunday morning the weather was perfect, and 5 birds were banded.  Great morning!  Thanks Stella, Jack, Adam and Julie for the opportunity to observe this remarkable activity.

Your bed linens are ready

We have pair of Carolina Wrens building a nest in the holly bushes right outside our front door.  And this Wren parent is busy making the nest extra comfortable.  Seems that both parents work on constructing the nest.  There’s a good description of exactly what’s going on on Cornell’s All About Birds site; scroll down under ‘Nesting’.  If they choose this nest, we’ll be using the back door for a while.

Carolina Wren nesting

Also, check out this article by Doug Tallamy in today’s New York Times.