Hidden Homes

Some birds, like House Wrens, Black-capped Chickadees, Bluebirds and House Finches, readily take residence in the nest boxes that we place in our yards. But some species seem to mysteriously appear at feeders one day with full-grown young. Here’s an inside peek at what you may be missing.

cardinal nestNorthern Cardinals

Cardinal nests are usually very well hidden within dense shrubs or trees, about 3–10 feet above the ground. Cardinals build cup-shaped nests—about 4–5 inches in diameter—from twigs, plants and leaves and then line them with fine grasses and hair. Cardinals usually lay 3–4 eggs, which are a pale, bluish- to greenish-white color with brown spots and blotches. They raise 2–3 broods per season.

Blue Jays

Blue Jays nest in trees, 10–25 feet above ground. Their nests, 7–8 inches in diameter, are bulky, cup-shaped and made of fresh twigs, bark, dry leaves and grasses. Blue Jays lay 4–6 eggs in shades of olive, blue and tan; they are spotted with brown near the larger end. They raise 1–2 broods a year.

American Robins

Robins nest on any tree branch, in a shrub or on any substantial ledge. They build nests that are 6–8 inches in diameter from grass, twigs and feathers, strips of cloth or paper and moss. They bind the materials together with mud. Robin’s eggs are easily recognizable by their “bird’s-egg-blue” color. American Robins lay 4 eggs at a time, and raise 2 broods per year.

American Goldfinch

Goldfinch nests are 4–10 feet above the ground in trees, shrubs and even tall weeds. The nests are cup-shaped and small, about 2½ to 4 inches in diameter. Goldfinches use twigs, spider webs, and plant fibers to build nests, then line them with thistle down. Goldfinches are the latest birds to nest, waiting until thistles bloom to harvest the down. The average Goldfinch nest holds
5 eggs that are pale bluish-white or greenish-blue in color and unmarked.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nest 10–20 feet above the ground. Their small nests, about 1–2 inches in diameter, typically attach near the tip of a downward-sloping tree limb. Hummingbirds construct their nests from plant down, bud scales and lichens, attaching them to tree limbs using spider webs. Hummingbirds lay 1–3 tiny white eggs per brood—each less than an inch long—and raise 1–3 broods per year.

Baltimore Oriole

Orioles build nests in any deciduous trees, but are especially fond of cottonwood, willow and apple trees. Their nests are commonly found 25–30 feet above ground. Orioles build an intricately woven deep pouch made of plant fibers, hair, yarn, and fine grasses. They lay one brood of 4-5 eggs. The eggs are a pale grayish white or pale bluish white, with streaked, blotched spots of browns and black. 

Article from the May/June 2012 issue of Bird’s-Eye View newsletter