Nesting habits vary a great deal in the bird
world. Wild birds prepare for and raise their baby birds in many different ways.
Some birds like a solitary situation when finding a location for building a nest and others are communal.
American Gold Finch requires an area that they defend against other
Gold Finches preventing them from nesting too close. Although in the
fall and winter months you will see them in groups wandering about
The Blue Heron is the exact opposite. They will come together with other Blue Herons to build their nests in close proximity to one another. This is called a rookery and is often in a swampy area.
But during the rest of the year other than to migrate they are solitary birds, hunting alone.
Then there are birds who like to nest in trees which we are all quite familiar. Some inside the tree in a hole and others on a branch.
Other birds such as the Turkey Vulture just pick a spot on the ground and call it home for their babies.
There are birds who don’t share any of the responsibility of raising young with their mate.
The little Hummingbird is a good example of solo parenting. The male and female do not mate for life.
The female prefers to go it alone. She carries out the whole process by herself; building the bird nest, incubating the eggs, raising the baby birds and defending her territory. Even chasing the male away!
But many other birds do share this task.
How they share their time and duties varies a lot among species. Some parents trade out sitting on the eggs on an hourly basis.
Others split the duties up with the female sitting on the eggs and the male feeding her.
Still others share incubation with the male sitting on the eggs during the daylight hours and the female taking the night shift.
Mourning Doves for example share the task of nest building and raising baby birds.
Their nesting habits differ quite a bit from the Hummingbirds.
The female Mourning Dove builds the nest with the material brought to her by her mate.
Incubating is also evenly divided up. The male usually sits during the day while the female relieves him as needed and does the night shift.
When the babies have hatched they both share in feeding.
Interestingly they both share in the feeding of crop milk to the young, which is a liquid secreated from inside the parents mouth.
As the nestlings grow the parents will bring them insects and seed.
Some wild birds recruit other adult birds to help them or keep older offspring around to assist with the job.
The Tufted Titmouse and the Gray Jay will often feed their young with assistance from offspring from an earlier brood.
Still, there are feathered friends who choose to pass their total parenting responsibility along to other unsuspecting parents. Their nesting habits are practiced by laying their eggs in another nest belonging to a totally different species of bird.
This behaviour is known as brood parasitism. It is practised by a few birds all over the world. These parent birds do not want the fuss and work involved in raising their young.
The most commonly known bird who practices this behaviour in North America is the Brown-headed Cowbird.
The female lays her eggs in the nests of other species when they have left the nest to find food or are still in the process of gathering nest material. They are totally unaware of how this egg, usually much larger than their own, has found its way into their nest.
The new host parents will work hard to raise this often single, over-grown baby, as the parasite young bird will get rid of the hosts nestlings, by destroying the eggs, or tossing them out of the nest or smothering them.
It has been observed by wildlife scientists that some species of foster birds are learning to recognize the foreign egg as it arrives in their nest and are getting rid of it.
And in turn the birds who practise brood paraticism are learning better ways to keep from being detected.
Fascinating behaviour from both sides!
Some birds nesting habits drive them to build elaborate hanging basket style nests like the Baltimore Oriole or the simple open nest of the Robin.
Woodpecker pairs most often share the task of hollowing out the holes in trees in which to raise their young.
The instinct to bore holes is so strong in Woodpeckers they usually excavate a new hole every year. This provides a wonderful service to other cavity nesting species. The next year another species of bird will use this cavity for their home.
Some birds just lay their eggs anywhere; on the forest floor or the open tundra.
Whatever method of preparing for and raising their baby birds a wild bird may undertake, it is a wonderful and fascinating experience to watch their nesting habits.
The picture series on the right provides an interesting look into the steps of an architectural feat, one species undertakes each year.
If you know the location of nests you would like to identify then use The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Nest Watch site for help.
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