When we moved in we found three birds nests on the exterior of our house, one on our shed/detached garage, and one down by the garden. There was this cardinal’s nest under our patio next to the garage:
Every time we walked anywhere near the area she would fly through the lattice surrounding the underside of our porch yelling at us as she went. She seemed very annoyed when we moved in coming in and out of the house with boxes. This shot was very hard to get.
Then there was the robin’s nest on our fabric awning over the dining room window. I am so excited that we have so many robins on our property. I’ve liked them ever since I was a young girl since we share the same name. : )
In this picture you can really see the female robin’s white chin and streaks around her head. That’s how you can easily tell the difference from a male and a female robin. Male robins only have a white ring around their eyes. Additionally, females have slightly lighter breasts and heads.
She was building her nest when we first moved in and I would sit below the window and watch her fly back and forth with twigs and mud while the father watched from a nearby tree (or I’m assuming he was the father). This explained the large mug splatters all over our window from mouthfuls of mud that didn’t quite make it to the nest. I had fun watching her rapidly fly back and forth. It looked like she was going to fly right into you at a fast speed but she would pull up at the last second and land on the awning. I tried to get some pictures but of course none of them turned out.
Then there was the mystery nest on the metal awnings over the living room windows. The awnings roll out from large crank shafts in the living room. The first day we moved in we were rolling them out because there were lots of bugs in them. Well the one I happened to be rolling out had a birds nest on top of it that we didn’t know was there. The nest fell two stories to the patio below and broke the eggs inside it! I felt awful! That in addition to all the other problems we had to deal with made our first couple days really stink. The robin was at least smart enough to build her nest on the awnings that can only be extended from the outside.
Then there was the nest down by the garden. It was build between two tall plants. Do you know what kind of bird makes a nest like this? We were never able to see the mother.
Finally, there was the nest built on the motion detector lights on our shed/detached garage. I think this is the an Eastern phoebe. Does anyone know for sure?
I used to park my car right below her nest and she wasn’t scared off by my car or me opening the car door but as soon as I stepped out of the car she would fly off.
I was hoping to get more pictures of the baby birds but they seemed to have hatched and left the nest really fast. The robin’s nest was two stories off the ground and I was going to try to borrow someones ladder to get a picture but by the time I got around to that they had already hatched and left the nest.
At least I was able to get a couple shots of the Eastern phoebe’s nest. In the matter of a couple days the birds went from this:
This shot was from the day before they left the nest. As I was putting this together I realized that these baby birds don’t look anything like the mother! Look at the difference in their profiles and they are much larger than the mother barely able to fit in the nest. I remember thinking that was strange at the time but I didn’t think much of it.
After doing a little research I found out they were actually cowbird babies. Cowbirds are brood parasites that lay their eggs in other birds nests hoping that that bird will raise them as their own. The cowbird mothers remove at least one egg of host’s by piercing the egg with it’s beak and either knocking it out of the nest or flying off with the egg. We didn’t see any egg shells below the nest so the mother must have flown off with it. I’ve also found that cowbirds typically only lay one egg in a nest so because we have two baby cowbirds they were probably from two different mothers. The cowbird babies hatch earlier and grow faster and larger than the host’s babies so they have a better chance of surviving. Cowbird hatchlings also tend to get fed more because they have a bright pink mouth which indicates they need to be feed more. In the picture above you can clearly see this. I remember watching the “mother” phoebe flying around frantically trying to feed them from our study window too. Check out this really interesting website about cowbirds.
Brown-headed cowbirds are the only parasitic birds that live in Wisconsin and many popular birds in our area actually reject their eggs. Robins can recognize the difference in the eggs and will knock the cowbird egg out of their nest. (I always knew robins were smart!) Cardinals will either knock the egg out of the nest or reject the nest altogether.
The fact that there are such things as parasitic birds really irks me. We were planning on removing the nest and now I’m afraid we might find dead phoebe babies in it. Ugh, this was supposed to be a happy post.
Has anyone had to deal with parasitic birds before? What would you have done if you had found out they were in nearby nests? Would you have removed the eggs/killed the hatchlings or just let nature run it’s course? I’m curious to see what you guys have to say.