When we think about birds one of the things we usually associate them with are their nests. Almost all birds build nests as a safe place to incubate their eggs and a place that will prevent them from rolling away or being predated. Birds build nests in a wide range of places from the ground, to trees, and buildings to hedges. As our environment has changed some birds have adapted by building their nests in some very unusual places. There have been reports of Mistle Thrush nesting in traffic lights, Blue Tits nesting in a pair of jeans hanging up on a washing line and Blackbirds nesting on top of car wheels.
Bird nests can also range from being very simple and in fairly obvious locations to incredibly well hidden and containing thousands of individual pieces of material. The Lapwing is a bird that nests on wet grassland with a fairly short sward height. Its nest is little more than a shallow hollow in the ground and a few pieces of grass for lining. On the other hand the Long Tailed Tit is a bird that has a very complex next. A typical nest is sort of a bottle shape made up of moss and lichen that are bound together using spider webs. The nests are then lined with up to 1,500 feathers. All in all there could be 6,000 individual components used to make and line this nest. All of this requires a lot of time and energy and it could even take up to three weeks to produce a good nest. At the same time they are having to feed themselves too and so for such a small bird they are certainly kept very busy.
For many species that nest in woodland a natural choice for a nest for a nest would be a tree cavity that has formed due to the natural aging of a tree. In younger woodland where these natural cavities are limited many birds will happily take to nest boxes. Nest boxes simulate these cavities and also allow us to monitor the breeding success so that comparisons can be made year on year. Some of the longest running blue and great tit surveys have taken place because of their willingness to nest in these boxes giving us a real glimpse into their life cycle.
The blue and great tits in our nest boxes are now reaching the stage in development where they will be leaving the nest soon. This is known as fledging and it means that their flight feathers are almost fully developed and it won’t be long until they take their first flight. The photo above shows some of the juvenile blue tits in one of our boxes and as you can see it’s getting rather tight for space in there. Putting up a nest box is something you can do in your garden and watching chicks emerge can be very rewarding. Perhaps it is something to consider for 30 days wild.
Darran Dixon, Falls of Clyde Assistant Ranger
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