Resident Nesters

I have magies and robins raising families in my yard.  I was surprised the magpies decided  to build in my largest fir tree.  Generally they construct rather massive nests of large sticks complete with roof.  Maybe this pair decided the thick branches of the fir made a good enough ceiling.  I’ve seen two young magpies – it’s hard to call them babies when they’re so large.  You can tell a young magpie by its abbreviated tail – much shorter than that of their parents.

Magpie feather

The robins have fledged their first brood and baby robins are raising a ruckus all over the yard.  They and the baby magpies are very loud when they’re calling for food, which is just about all day long.  Watching a baby robin call and flutter after its parent reminds me of human babies clutching at their mom’s sleeve and whining about something they want!  It’s amazing how similar all babies are!

robin's egg

Robin's egg

Activity:  Introductory Birding

Summer is the perfect time for instilling in children a life long passion for birds.  Birds are all around us and this is the time of year when you can see the most species.  That makes birding much more interesting!

To start, find a spot where you can see birds clearly.  If you can erect a feeder near a big window that would be perfect.  It doesn’t have to be fancy – an aluminum pie tin with holes punched for twine works as well as a $20 feeder.  Generic bird seed is the cheapest but you’ll probably get better results with ordinary black oil sunflower seeds.  Ask your crew to sit quietly and simply observe the feeding birds for a few minutes.  Then have them watch one particular type of bird and ask them to focus on the following characteristics.

1. Size – larger than a mouse?  Smaller than a robin?  Almost everyone can identify a robin so it’s a good bird to compare unknowns with.

2. Color: What colors?  Where are the colors on the bird? (back, tail feathers, top of head, etc.)

3. Behavior:  Where is the bird feeding?  On the ground?  Getting several bites directly from the feeder?  Or taking one seed and flying away?

These are all clues as to what species you’re observing.  Your next step is to try and find your bird in a field guide.  More on that in the next post.




2 thoughts on “Resident Nesters

  1. We had magpies in the back yard last year. The cats decided that their nests were fun this winter and squashed them flat. I was glad to see those birds move in a different direction, across the driveway. Still noisy but I can actually enjoy them now that they aren’t right outside the window yelling in my ear! 🙂

  2. I had no idea that magpies, or any bird for that matter, made a nest with a roof! Interesting.

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