Larry CollinsWILD ABOUT BIRDSFree Press Birding Columnist

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March 15, 2012
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WILD ABOUT BIRDS: Nesting habits of your favorite birds

With nesting season starting soon, here are some of the fun and interesting nesting habits of different species. (This is a continuation of the March 2 article which appeared in the Free Press.)HOUSE FINCH: Both male and female House Finches display a strong tendency to return to the same area to breed, often occupying the same nest site as the previous year. Ironically, House Finches rarely use bird houses to build their nest in; instead, they seem to prefer locations such as coniferous trees, cactus plants, ledges, street lamps, ivy on building, and hanging planters. You can attract them with a water source for drinking and bathing.HUMMINGBIRD:Hummingbirds often use spider webs as glue to attach the nest to a tree branch as well as a binding agent for the building materials. The nests are approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter, or the size of a golf ball.GOLDFINCH:The American Goldfinch is one of the latest breeding songbirds, waiting to nest until mid-to-late summer when thistle seeds and down are readily available. Like their cousin the American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinches will delay breeding until the greatest number of thistle, dandelion, and other composite flowers are seeding. This occurs in some regions in the spring while others in late summer. American Goldfinches prefer to nest in habitats with trees and shrubs and usually place their nest four to 10 feet high, often near a water source (such as a bird bath).CARDINAL:During the breeding season, male cardinals may sing 200 or more songs per hour in the early morning hours. He will defend a breeding territory ranging from two to 10 acres. Watch how busy he is once his mate is on the nest as he will provide her food and protect the nest.Young Northern Cardinals have black bills rather than the orange-red of the adults. It gradually changes to the adult color three to four months after hatching.ORIOLE:The Oriole nest is an engineering masterpiece. The female weaves a hanging-basket nest with plant fibers, grasses, vine, and tree bark, and sometimes string or yarn placed out on the small twigs of a branch six to 45 feet in the air. This helps keep them safe from most predators. It takes as many as 12 days for an Oriole to weave its nest. One Baltimore Oriole was observed spending 40 hours building a nest with about 10,000 stitches and the tying of thousands of knots, all with its beak.NUTHATCH:The White-breasted Nuthatch is known to bill-sweep a crushed insect around its nest cavity's entrance hole. This is done presumably to deter predators with the chemical-defense mechanisms from the insect.The Red-breasted Nuthatch will line the entrance to its nesting cavity with drops of sticky conifer resin. It is thought that this may be a tactic to discourage predators or nest competitors from entering. The nuthatches avoid the resin themselves by diving directly into the cavity without ever touching the sides of the entry hole.Pygmy and Brown-headed Nuthatches are two of the few North America bird species known to breed cooperatively. A third of all breeding pairs of Pygmy Nuthatches have one to three male helpers, usually their own offspring or other relatives. Studies of the Brown-headed Nuthatch show that between 20-60% of breeding pairs have at least one helper. These helpers assist in feeding the incubating female, the nestlings and the young fledglings. SONG SPARROW:A pair of Song Sparrows will live and nest in 1-1/2 acres or less and may raise up to four broods a year. A study showed that Song Sparrows with access to millet feeders started nesting and produced eggs up to 14 days earlier than those without access to feeders. Studies have also shown that female Song Sparrows are attracted to males that learn and sing a larger repertoire of songs. These males are much more successful in holding their territories and reproducing.During the dawn twilight on a spring morning, male Song Sparrows will sing a song every eight seconds and may average over 2,300 songs during an entire day.-------------------Local bird expert Larry Collins owns Wild Birds Unlimited, 2454 Hwy. 6&50, which caters to folks who want the best backyard birdfeeding experience possible. Email your birdfeeding and birding questions to and he'll answer them in his bi-weekly Q&A column in the Free Press.

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The Post Independent Updated Mar 15, 2012 09:08PM Published Mar 15, 2012 09:07PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.