Bird Study – Behaviour When Nest Is Discovered

After the young are hatched it is even easier to find nests by watching the parents. The nestlings are hungry at all hours, and the old ones are visiting the nest at frequent intervals throughout the day. Birds behave very differently when their nests are discovered. A Cuckoo will glide away instantly and will make no effort to dispute your possession of her treasures. A Crow will also fly off, and so will a Wild Duck and some others. On the other hand, the Mockingbird, Robin, or Shrike, will raise a great outcry and bring about her half the birds of the neighborhood to pour out on you their vials of wrath, unless you have the good judgment to retire at once to a respectful distance. Warblers will flit from bush to bush uttering cries of distress and showing their uneasiness. The Mourning Dove, Nighthawk, and many others will feign lameness and seek to lead you away in a vain pursuit. A still larger number will employ the same means of deception after the young have been hatched, as, for example, the Quail, Killdeer, Sand-piper, and Grouse.

However much a bird may resent your intrusion on the privacy of its sanctuary, it is very rare for one to attack you. I remember, however, a boy who once had the bad manners to put his hand into a Cardinal’s nest and had a finger well bitten for his misdeed. Beware, too, of trying to caress a Screech Owl sitting on its eggs in a hollow tree; its claws are very sharp, and you will need first-aid attention if you persist. Occasionally some bird will let you stroke its back before deserting its eggs, and may even let you take its photograph while you are thus engaged. On one occasion I removed a Turkey Vulture’s egg from beneath the sitting bird. It merely hissed feebly as I approached, and a moment later humbly laid at my feet a portion of the carrion which it had eaten a short time before a well meant but not wholly appreciated peace-offering.