Friday, April 24, 2015

This Nest is Amazing

I have always been intrigued with how birds are able to construct marvelous creations we call nests. Innumerable types of materials are used by various species; from plain mud to finely woven baskets of grass.

I was fortunate enough to see a blue-gray gnatcatcher nest along a portion of the Mallard Creek Greenway last Wednesday. Blue-gray gnatcatchers get started early on nest building, often completing the initial nests well before the leaves come out on the nest tree. Consequently, the nest must be well hidden while remaining in plain sight.

  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on Nest by Kevin Burrell

Gnatcatchers are tiny birds and of course build a tiny cup of a nest. What is so fascinating to me is that the nest is constructed almost entirely of spider webs and tree lichens. The pair will weave in some fine grasses and animal hairs to give the structure some firmness and stability. If you look closely at the photo you can actually see the spider web strands anchoring the nest to the branch. The lichens are built into the spider web cup to make for perfect camouflage and additional stability. After completion, the nest resembles just another knot on a tree limb. This nest was just about three inches in diameter. No wonder blue-gray gnatcatchers are so common… few predators can find the nests!