Thursday, August 26, 2010

A bird's labor (or: Anatomy of a Nest)

When construction of the guestudio was still in the early stages, a wonderful thing happened. As soon as the "bones" of the porch were up, a bird nest began to take shape in the rafters. I could not think of a more lovely christening of the building than that. It wasn't long before we found out that it was American Robins that chose this as their nesting area. I was quite surprised, actually, because I don't normally hear or see Robins up in our woods, at least not with much frequency.

Mama Robin, incubating eggs

Four eggs were laid in that nest, and as far as I could tell, 4 birds hatched. Unfortunately, we were gone on vacation during the time they were due to fledge, so I can only cross my fingers and hope that all 4 of them made it out successfully.

Mama Robin in a nearby Redbud tree, fluffing up a bit and asking me to kindly move away from her nest.

Fast-forward to mid-August. Construction has resumed on the guestudio after a hiatus, and the roof of the porch is finished with beadboard, closing off the space where the nest once was. Thank goodness our builders had a good enough sense about me to know that they shouldn't just toss that nest on the ground. Instead, they carefully removed it and placed it inside the building so I could have a look at it when I got home. Shortly after they relocated it I took it back outside and examined it. The architecture blew me away. For an animal with no opposable thumbs, this structure is nothing short of a miracle.

The nest, turned 180 degrees from its original orientation and settled on the porch railing so I could have a better look.

The following information about American Robin nest construction comes from the Cornell University's All About Birds website:
Females build the nest from the inside out, pressing dead grass and twigs into a cup shape using the wrist of one wing. Other materials include paper, feathers, rootlets, or moss in addition to grass and twigs. Once the cup is formed, she reinforces the nest using soft mud gathered from worm castings to make a heavy, sturdy nest. She then lines the nest with fine dry grass. The finished nest is 6-8 inches across and 3-6 inches high.

Dead grass - check

Rootlets - check

Twigs - check

Other material (part of a vining plant) - check

More "other material," strands of plastic, probably from the building construction - check

Lined with fine dry grass - check

"...soft mud gathered from worm castings to make a heavy, sturdy nest" - check

A strong, secure home in which to rear young - check. A beautiful sight to behold - you better believe it.


KaHolly said...

Absolutely unbelievable. I have watched the mama gather her nesting materials with such diligence throughout the summer. I had 3 broods hatch on my property this year. I think I'll go out and check one of the nests tomorrow to see it up close and personal. Great post today. ~karen

Ginnymo said...

That is so awesome Heather!! I'm sure glad those guys saved it for you. Birds are amazing builders!!

ruthiw said...

great macro shots... great concept. i love it. nice info about the bird too. thanks for sharing.

The Early Birder said...

Great post celebrating the Robin's architectural handiwork. FAB.

Shelley said...

I love when you show detail like this Heather! Beautiful!!

Heather said...

Karen - I didn't get to watch this nest being built, but after watching the Phoebes build their nest, I can appreciate the hard work that goes into it.

Ginny - "Amazing" is right!

Ruthiw - Thank you for stopping by and for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed this post.

Frank - Thank you kindly.

Shelley - Thanks for your kind words.