Three Birds

For the past few weeks it's pretty much been bird time in my garden. Although some of the species start nesting quite early (like the grackles and house finches), others start a bit later. Even others raise more than one brood a year, and if you add into the equation the different development times (some birds take longer to mature) you end up with a period of at least a couple of months where the sounds of begging nestlings or twittering fledgelings are almost constant.

Well, you do if you have nests scattered about in the garden -- and I hope you do. Here's a look at three instances that are notable right now in my yard.


First up is a mourning dove nest. I don't know that I've ever seen a mourning dove nest up close before, and if this one is typical of them I hesitate to even call it a "nest". When I saw this in the climbing rose that is right outside the kitchen window, I was certain that it was a nest that was started but abandoned. It looked so flimsy, as if a child took a handful of long dried grass stems, formed it into a ring, and set it on a branch.

Imagine my surprise when the dove started using it, sitting in it seemingly around the clock.

A week or two later (I lost track) this is what I saw:

It's strange, because she's always sitting out there. I mean always. A closer look:

I watched for a few more minutes and when she returned she grabbed an eggshell and carried it off again.

After that I don't think she's left the nest again, and I never see her partner anywhere. Unless of course they're switching off, but I never see anything happening.

I was concerned that the babies were not being fed -- these are not the brightest birds as far as I can tell -- but then did some research and found out that for the first week the babies are fed crop milk. I'll let you read about that yourself. During the second week grown-up food (seeds mainly) start getting added to their diet, but since it's only been five days since hatching, I haven't seen that yet. It will be nice to get another view of the chicks when mom is out foraging, as I have only seen them the one time and she hasn't left the nest again since.

Incidentally, I was out here weeding and watering the other day, with my eyes on the ground for most of that time. When I finally raised my head, this is what I saw:

The dove nest was about 12" (30cm) in front of my face, exactly at eye level! The mother bird was just sitting there, staring at me. It was a bit startling.

Next up, cardinal chicks!

Wait, that doesn't look like a cardinal. Here's dad:

Here are the chicks, waiting for food:

Hungry! We are hungry!

And now dad is feeding the always-famished kids:

If you haven't guessed it yet, these are cowbirds. Their trick is to lay eggs in the nests of other birds, letting the unsuspecting parents raise cowbird babies. It makes me a bit mad, as I'd much rather have more cardinals around than cowbirds!

Remember my front porch finch nest? I haven't talked about it this year, as it's pretty much the same every year. The nest gets built (or repaired if I left it up all winter, which I sometimes do) in late February or early March (am I remembering that right?), and the house finches raise two broods.

I love hearing their bubbling calls right outside my window every day, but I have to admit that the nest becomes a horrible thing by the time the second brood is ready to fledge -- which is just days away it seems.

I wonder how tall this would get if I just left it in place and never cleaned it up? 

Other nests in my garden that are currently in use or have just recently been abandoned: robins, grackles (of course), house sparrows, brown thrashers (although I've never actually seen their nest). I'm hoping there is a hummingbird nest somewhere in back (in the "wild" border behind my yard) but I've never been able to find one. Mockingbirds and catbirds too, but I rarely see those nests either.

How is nesting time going in your garden?


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Salty Pumpkin Studio  – (May 28, 2014 at 8:24 AM)  

Thank you for the pictures and narrative
I've never seen a mourning dove nest, ever. I have seen cow birds, but not the chicks.

Mark and Gaz  – (May 28, 2014 at 3:10 PM)  

Isn't it nice to have such wildlife in the garden? As cat owners I'm afraid any low lying nests are no good but glad to see that higher ones seems safe and the little ones seemed to be doing fine.

Steve Lau  – (May 28, 2014 at 9:39 PM)  

looks awesome. You might be able to get a nice video of the pigeon.

Lisa  – (May 29, 2014 at 5:54 AM)  

Birds are fascinating and a bit creepy, all at once. That crop milk thing? What the? Nature you are one weird lady!

Alan  – (May 29, 2014 at 9:57 AM)  

Lisa: the birds are looking at us and saying "You produce milk out of GLANDS!? -- Creepy!" :)

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