Housecleaning is for the Birds

Back in June we were busy watching the new neighbors moving in. As my column of June 10 stated, “while no moving vans appeared, homes were put together with all manner of materials, from the finest available goods.”

Now as November comes into its third week, we have been left the task of housecleaning for those neighbors who decided to abandon house and home for warmer regions. It’s the same every year. We’re used to it. But each year holds its own surprise as to what we actually find in our bird houses.

As a last-ditch attempt to nest, one robin built her home in the large bird feeder itself. Easy enough to clear away, we are always awed at the tight-woven, mud-glued bowl that female robins put together over a few days’ time.

On the other hand, Carolina wrens stuff their chosen box with sticks until not even they can enter. When finished, this damp haven attracts spiders and earwigs. It is the scariest of the boxes to open and we stand at the ready to run as masses of these creatures pour out the door upon finding themselves served with eviction notice.

House wrens preferred the chickadee box and were quick to move in once the box was vacated. These wrens were quite territorial in their housekeeping. Twigs, grass, small debris items such as pins, staples, nails, all became the basis for a moss and feather-lined cup.

Chickadees had left behind an exceptionally soft nest of grass, moss, fur, feathers and thistledown. When their three children fledged they used the nest to “climb” to the small narrow opening, watching for mom and dad to signal them it was okay to come out.

House finches nested in the awning at the south windows. Consisting of grass, twigs and an occasional bit of plastic, the nest fell apart as soon as it was removed. It did not have to be sturdy as it was encased in the metal awning.

A hummingbird’s nest was the surprise of last summer. As our ailing ash tree slowly died due to the emerald ash borer, we trimmed back the outside branches. A tiny cup-shaped area caught our attention. It was amazing to see how little the nest was. Woven from spider threads and made sturdy with lichen, the cup was formed on the tree branch to be level-one side built higher than the other.

Boxes cleaned and put back up, we await next spring’s songsters and their homemaking skills.

Published on Oct 27, 2015

Grit Magazine

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