Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
The pair of Canada Geese nesting on a platform in our pond brought six goslings ashore Monday morning. The goose gave up on incubation of a seventh egg. She kept at it for 36 hours beyond the appearance of the six that hatched. Strangely, while the egg was clearly visible in the nest during the birds’ initial visit to our yard, it disappeared later in the day. I’m going to have to visit the nest to see if the goose buried it, pushed it into the water, or what else might have happened to it. The goslings were on land half a dozen times today to eat, meals of corn and sunflower seeds beneath our feeders alternating with next of greens and bugs along the pond shore. We have yet to see return of the Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser and their ducklings. I hope the geese stay here. They’re fun to watch.
Update: Monday 7:30 a.m. -- no visible progress from what is reported below. Now into Day Two, the goose continues to incubate at least one egg, the gander continues his watch at her side, and the four or five goslings hatched about 24 hours ago appear restless to get out from under mom and hit the water.
The Canada Goose nesting on our pond hatched eggs Sunday, with at least one gosling yet to make the break. We count five hatched goslings, probably, maybe six. And one unhatched egg for certain, maybe two. A usual brood is five to six goslings. The goose is sitting most of the time, so progress is a secret. The gander has stood on the nest platform, at her side, on alert the entire day. I first saw them at 7:30 a.m., and at 9:30 p.m., with barely enough light to tell, he remained on guard. I did not see him off the nest platform ever. He did lie down for perhaps 15 minutes in late afternoon. At that point, both geese shut their eyes briefly now and then (second photo). I could not find information on hatching sequence, whether or not eggs unhatched for more than 12 hours after initial hatchings is normal or not. An egg can be seen directly under the goose in the photo below.
Canada Goose pair with eyes shut.
Here is a robin’s nest, an unusual nest because it seems to contain what appears to be deer hair, a lot of deer hair. I found it at Westwood Hills Nature Center in St. Louis Park. The Birds of North America monograph on American Robin describes the typical nest made by this species: an outer wall of dead grass and twigs lined with mud, the cup finished with dead grass. The mud is said to be from worm castings. Occasionally, white paper, feathers, rootlets, and moss are added, according to the authors. No mention is made of hair. There are many deer at Westwood Hills. The bird apparently made use of available materials. I once watched a robin building a nest, a conventional nest with grass and mud. The bird shaped the mud by rotating its body in the cup, using its breast and stomach to spread the mud on the nest walls. I wanted to see the inside of this nest to know if a more conventional approach was taken with cup construction.
House Wrens have nested in our yard for the past 10 years, using our nest boxes. Some years we’ve had two pair. I sat with a camera the other day watching what I presume was a male wren work on his nest. Male wrens will begin more than one nest, allowing the female of the pair to choose the site to be completed. I think this nest was nearing completion; the bird was carrying bits of grass and rootlets (see photo) to the nest, materials used to form the cup at nest bottom. This is a PVC box four inches in diameter. Last year the nest built by a wren slid complete from the box when I did fall housecleaning. Tension of interwoven sticks held the nest together. After photographing it I took it apart to count the sticks: 206 of lengths from about one inch to six inches. How to build a nest is instinctive for the bird. Unlike say a robin nest, most of which resemble one another, wren nests vary in style. I’ve seen nests open at the top. I’ve seen one where the entry tunnel spiraled down to the cup, like a spiral stairway. That nest was an engineering marvel. Nests must vary depending on the cavity used (wrens are always cavity nesters). But, does an individual wren build generally the same style nest each time? How does the bird select the sticks used? Search out a stick of a particular dimension for a particular use? Pick a stick at random, then see how to make it work once in the nest? I’ve never seen a wren reject a stick brought to the nest. Perhaps that’s why some nests are so jammed into the box that room for the hen and babies is surprising. The nest in the photo, the one I disassembled, was a work of art, another engineering marvel. I doubt if any human could have taken those sticks and made that nest.
Killdeer often build their nests -- little more than a scrape -- in gravel or on open soil. This one chose to use wood shavings surrounding a tree trunk. Can you find the eggs? The camo is pretty good.
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