Bird Study – Lessons To Be Learned

An infinite variety of interesting things may be learned by watching birds at their nests, or by a study of the nests themselves. How many persons have ever tried to answer seriously the old conundrum: “How many straws go to make a bird’s nest?” Let us examine critically one nest and see what we find. One spring after a red squirrel had destroyed the three eggs in a Veery’s nest which I had had under observation, I deter-mined to study carefully its composition, knowing the birds would not want to make use of it again. The nest rested among the top limbs of a little brush-pile and was just two feet above the ground. Some young shoots had grown up through the brush and their leaves partly covered the nest from view. It had an extreme breadth of ten inches and was five inches high. The inner cup was two and one-half inches deep, and measured the same across the top. In its construction two small weed stalks and eleven slender twigs were used. The latter were from four and one-half to eight inches long. The main bulk of the nest was made up of sixty-eight large leaves, besides a mass of decayed leaf fragments. Inside this bed was the inner nest, composed of strips of soft bark. Assembling this latter material I found that when compressed with the hands its bulk was about the size of a baseball. Among the decaying leaves near the base of the nest three beetles and a small snail had found a home.

The Veery, in common with a large number of other birds, builds a nest open at the top. The eggs, therefore, are often more or less exposed to the Crow, the pilfering Jay, and the egg-stealing red squirrel. This necessitates a very close and careful watch on the part of the owners. At times it may seem that the birds are not in sight, and that the eggs are deserted; but let the observer go too near, and invariably one or both old birds will let him know of their presence by voicing their resentment and sending abroad their cries of distress.