This past week, one of our employees led a free Jay’s Bird Barn bird walk to Stricklin Park and Thumb Butte. While the group didn’t see any unusual or rare bird species, they did have the unique opportunity of seeing a variety of different bird species engaged in nesting activity.
At Stricklin Park, a pair of Cooper’s hawks — presumably the same pair that have nested there for several consecutive years — has once again taken up residency in a large cottonwood tree right next to Butte Creek. When incubating their eggs, they sit low in the nest, making it difficult to see them. However, if you use a scope you can get a good look at the adults on the nest.
They also observed two different Anna’s hummingbird nests, each with a female sitting on the nest. Without being able to look into the nest, the birders couldn’t tell whether the females were sitting on eggs or on nestlings. When baby hummingbirds hatch, their eyes are not yet open, they are not yet feathered, and they are completely helpless.
Without feathers, the young aren’t capable of regulating their body temperature, so when mom isn’t busy feeding them she sits on the nest to keep the babies warm. This behavior is common for about the first week, but as the babies begin to develop feathers, mom can spend less time sitting over the babies and more time finding food.
The birding group also observed a bushtit going in and out of its nest. Bushtits make an amazing nest for such a small bird. Their nest looks like an old, dirty gym sock. How they manage to weave the nest together is really a wonder. They then line the bottom of the sack-like nest with downy feathers that they find out in nature.
A lesser goldfinch was observed collecting nesting material and taking it to a small tree where it was working on a nest, and an American robin was seen constructing a nest. Robins build a cup-shaped nest — the outside of the nest is made of mud, and the interior is lined with fine, soft grasses.
While some species build cup-shaped nests in trees and shrubs, other species rely on cavities in trees. Interestingly, a lot of species that are cavity-nesters don’t have the ability to create the cavity themselves. They rely on woodpeckers and nuthatches to excavate holes in the trunks of a tree.
Examples of some of our local cavity-nesting bird species that cannot create their own cavity are bridled and juniper titmice, Bewick’s wrens, violet-green swallows, western bluebirds and ash-throated flycatchers. While at Stricklin Park, the group saw both violet-green swallows and western bluebirds checking out nesting holes.
I am frequently asked by customers what kinds of bird houses they should put in their yard. The habitat on your property is the most important factor in figuring out whether or not bird houses will work in your yard.
If you live in an area with a lot of large trees, you are more likely to enjoy some success with bird houses. However, if you live in an area that has very few trees, such as in a grassland habitat, you are not likely to have a lot of success with bird houses. In a grassland area, due to the absence of trees and shrubs, most birds nest directly on the ground.
A quick reminder — the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood starts today and continues through Sunday. For more information, check out their website at birdyverde.org.
Until next week, Happy Birding!