View all of the titles in the
by Stan Tekiela
September 9, 2019
When you think about birds and nesting, you automatically think “spring”. But recently I was photographing a Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest in August and it made me think that, not all birds are nesting right away in spring. In fact, there are many species of birds that purposefully wait until summer to begin nesting. Or in some species they are nesting in summer because they are on their second or in some cases, third nesting of the year. Let’s look at some of these late nesters.
During spring, it seems like all the birds are in a mad dash to nest and have baby birds. The spring air is filled with beautiful bird songs. Birds are flying here and there gathering nesting materials and are hard at work building nests. But in summer the air is quiet, and the fever pitch of nesting is nowhere to be seen. But is it really?
Some species, such as the American Goldfinch and Cedar Waxwing, are birds who wait for the dog days of summer before nesting. The goldfinch often waits until the local thistle plants have finished flowering and have produced a large crop of seeds. Not only do they need the seeds for food, but each thistle seed has a thin soft white fiber attached to it, which the goldfinch uses to line their nest cavity. In fact, they use so much of the thistle down to line their nest, that the interior of the nest often appears white.
The American Goldfinch is a strict seed eater and only occasionally feeding on insects. Much of the goldfinch’s food source (plant seeds) begins to ripen in late summer. Late nesting helps them to have a consistent food source for all of their growing chicks.
Another classic late nesting bird is the Cedar Waxwing. This amazing, crested and masked bird is inextricably tied to a diet of fruits. This is called being frugivorous. Since the fruits that these birds depend upon are ripe and most abundant in late summer the waxwings hold off on nesting until August or even Sept. Some have nested as late as Oct in some parts of the country.
There is an interesting relationship between the Cedar Waxwings and the fruit trees. The birds are dependent upon the tree’s fruit production for their food. However, on the other side, the trees are dependent upon the birds to disperse their seeds far and wide. The birds swallow the berries whole, which contain the trees seeds. As the berry passes through the acid environment of the digestive system, the flesh is stripped away and the outer coat of the seeds (seed coat) becomes weakened or starts to open, which encourages the seed to germinate. This is called scarification. In fact, many berry seeds must pass through a bird’s digestive system in order to geminate and grow. Thus, these two very different species, bird and plant, depend upon each other for survival.
Some species of bird such as Eastern Bluebirds, Blue Jays or even Ruby-throated Hummingbirds also nest in summer. But the big difference is, these birds don’t wait until summer to breed like the others. For these birds it is their second or third nesting for the year. They first nest in spring and raise the first brood of baby birds. When summer rolls around they continue breeding and are on their second or third batch of babies.
That is the case for the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Hummingbirds only lay two eggs and have two babies. The mother sets up her own territory, separate from the male. Hummingbirds don’t form pair bonds between males and females. They lead separate lives. Only when the female has built her nest does she leave her territory and seeks out a male for breeding. She returns to her territory to lay eggs, incubate and raise the young.
Eastern Bluebirds often have two and sometimes three nesting attempts per summer. The more experienced pairs will split the nest duties after the first batch of babies are born. The male will protect and feed the young while the female starts to build another nest and begins to lay more eggs.
So even though it’s the dog days of summer, there is still a lot of nesting activity going on. You just need to get out and look for it. Until next time…
Stan Tekiela is an author / naturalist and wildlife photographer who travels the U.S. to study and capture images of wildlife. He can be followed on www.facebook.com and twitter.com. He can be contacted via his web page at www.naturesmart.com
The nationally syndicated NatureSmart Column appears in over 25 cities spanning 7 states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. It is a bi-weekly column circulated to over 750,000 readers.
Often it is the common critters that go unnoticed or at least unappreciated. After all, when was the last time you noticed a House Sparrow or Pigeon? How about an Eastern Chipmunk or Gray Squirrel? I’ve always maintained that we see woodpeckers do incredibly amazing things, such as landing...
Moving into autumn means it’s time for mushrooms. The cooler temperatures and increased precipitation cause the shooms to pop! But, before I go any further about mushrooms, I need to give some basic cautions. First, if you ever plan on collecting wild mushrooms you should understand...
When you think about all of the amazing animals in this world your mind tends to think about the large furry critters such as bears or moose. Yes, there are many crazy cool critters in this world. In fact, there are about 5,000 mammals in the world.
But at this time of year, when I think...
Gray Tree Frog
While poking around the garden the other day I found an adorable visitor. A small frog called a Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor) resting amongst the brightly colored flowers. This amazing little creature can be found in a wide range of habitats located throughout the eastern half of the United...
When he's out in the field, Stan relies on his Vortex Razor binoculars and Vortex Razor spotting scope to help find the subjects for his award winning wildlife photography.
Now, contact Stan for your special code to get a 10% discount off, along with free shipping, when you purchase any of the Vortex line of binoculars or spotting scopes.
For thirty years, professional wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela has counted on Hunt’s Photo and Video to provide him with professional photography equipment.
From tripods to camera bodies and lenses, Hunt’s has been Stan’s place for everything that he needs. Personal service and prompt shipping means Stan can count on Hunt’s to support his professional wildlife photography career.
Professional Wildlife Photographer Stan Tekiela always uses Feeder Fresh in his seed feeders to help keep the feeders and food dry, clean and mold free.
He also uses Feeder Fresh Nectar Defender in all of his hummingbird feeders. It safely keeps nectar fresh longer.