Nesting habits

It’s that time of the year again, your garden birds are getting busy and collecting nest material for the season ahead. The dawn chorus a beautiful sound scape in the early hours, if you’re the type to be up that early!

Over the last while I’ve watched some of my garden birds gather nest materials, eagerly hopping around on the ground collecting foliage, small twigs, feathers… the whole shabang really.

Starling gathering materials for a nest

I’ve been lucky enough to get a Willow Warbler singing in my garden everyday too! Unfortunately this good luck has been balanced out by a nesting pair of Starling in the gutter above my bedroom window….. the scratching and calling a 5am has been a very consistent alarm clock recently.

Willow Warbler proudly singing away in the tree tops

Although a lot of birds nest in trees as you would expect many also nest in bushes and hedgerows.

flimsy wood pigeon nest build from twigs

With this in mind and with many of us out gardening in the current crisis its important to not forget that any tree or hedge work should be avoided at this time of the year! All nesting birds are protected in the UK so there is a risk of disturbing or destroying nests with tree or hedge work during the breeding season.

The beginnings of a blue tit nest in a nest box

My garden birds prepping for the season got me thinking about other species that I am missing at home, the diversity in how birds nest can be quite interesting! Our reserve resident terns and Black-Headed Gulls for instance opt to nest on the ground in large colonies. Although non breeding on reserve, waders like Lapwing nest in a similar fashion in some regards, relying on safety in numbers. They in particular look to nest in very short cropped vegetation in wide open areas like fields to limit any hiding spaces or perches for predators. Trees that might be too near could rule out a nesting location for Lapwing, a potential perch for a buzzard to prey on the colony.

Eider take another approach, relying on camouflage and nesting in the vegetation. They stay perfectly still if they think you haven’t noticed them to protect their eggs.

Female Eider incubating eggs

One of the first birds that shocked me was they Grey Heron, turns out they nest in trees! Being a waterbird I never really associated them with trees but they do nest high up in the canopy. Heronries can be found in reedbeds too which I suppose is what I had assumed initially, at least I wasn’t totally incorrect.

Grey Herons nest up trees

Two other surprising species are Puffins and Shelduck. Both birds can actually re-purpose old rabbit burrows to nest underground! Surprising enough as I found this, the biggest surprise came last year seeing a single Jackdaw flying in and out of the ternary, entering with a full crop and leaving with an empty crop. After investigating the site to ensure there wasn’t any predation issues the only thing we found was a number of old rabbit holes…. we came to the conclusion that like a Puffin or Shelduck, the Jackdaw was probably making the most of the available space underground to make its nest.

Osprey being chased off by shelducks

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