Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Favorite Bird Nests, Part I

Nests are among the most miraculous of the miracles of nature. You have probably heard of the extremely elaborate bowerbird nests of New Guinea, but to my mind any nest—even the rudimentary crossed sticks of a mourning dove—is an amazing accomplishment by a creature that has no hands.

In an upcoming post we’ll take a closer look about the how’s and wherefores of nest-building. Today and tomorrow I want to show you some of the nests I’ve been keeping an eye on over the last couple of years.

White-winged dove: This beautiful bird builds a very flimsy nest from a few sticks and twigs. In a good spot, though, the nest will last through several broods. The white-winged dove who nests in my carport raised six chicks last year and is on her second pair of hatchlings at this writing.

White-winged family in carport 5-15-2012 5-16-01 PM 2572x1543

Mourning dove: These doves, like white-wingeds, build very flimsy nests. Here is a mourning dove with her two babies in a nest on TOP of a cactus wren nest.

Mourning dove and two babies on cactus wren nest 6-13-2012 9-25-24 AM 3616x2712

Verdin: This tiny bird builds a small, round, enclosed nest, usually in a palo verde tree. Here are a verdin and a verdin nest:

VerdinCU2-001Verdin nest 5-30-2009 3-25-25 PM 1571x1187

Cooper’s Hawk: These predators nest every spring at Tohono Chul Park. The nests are massive, big enough to hold both parents and two or three chicks. Here are last year’s nest, high in the tree, and a juvenile Cooper’s soon after fledging.

2013 hawk nest 3-18-2013 8-54-59 AM 3375x2666Baby cooper's hawk 6-22-2012 9-48-28 AM 1810x1698

House finch: House finches and Lesser Goldfinches build  compact, cup-like nests. Here is a beautiful, tightly-woven nest we found in a cholla at Catalina State Park a couple of years ago. We couldn’t imagine who had created it. My docent buddy, Sue, went back the next day and waited until the proprietor, a house finch, returned.

finch nest in cholla 5-10-2011 9-19-09 AM 3616x2712

Quail census update: there are so many families now, of varying sizes and ages, that they actually line up at the edge of the garden and wait their turn before coming to the quail block. In just the last hour, I’ve had two families of 3 and 5 with half-grown chicks, the family of nine grade-schoolers, and at least two families with three to five chicks no more than a few days old.


  1. I like the contrast of the artistry in the nests and the proximity to near-certain death to any predator who braves all those spines surrounding them! And thanks for the quail update.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I will have more to say about the "death to predators" issue in an upcoming post.

  2. Death to predators!!