Friday, May 6, 2011

Bird Nests

Baltimore Oriole- Wikimedia
There was a good article on bird nests by Francis Skalicky in yesterday's News-Leader.  He discusses many different types of nests with their advantages and disadvantages.  I have never thought of what an architectural wonder a nest is but as he says, "If you're not impressed by a bird's nest, try building a similar-looking structure using nothing but your mouth and feet and see how well you do."

My Bull Creek neighbor, Judge John Waters, reports that Baltimore Orioles have arrived at his deck.  He brings them in with a plate of orange slices and grape jelly while an expensive Oriole feeder nearby is ignored.

Male Oropendola- Wikimedia
His story brought to mind another bird that builds a hanging woven nest like the Baltimore Oriole.  Their cousins from the deep deep South (as in Central America), the Oropendola is a remarkable bird.  We had a chance to watch the Oropendola perform in the trees around Tikal's Mayan ruins years ago.  In addition to being colorful with a cheerful song, he was obviously having way too much fun.
"A male Oropendola stands on a thin horizontal branch, with his claws wrapped most of the way around it. Then the bird spreads his wings and swings around the branch so that he’s hanging upside down, his yellow tail feathers prominently displayed above him. Sometimes he reverses the motion and springs back to the top, and sometimes he flips all the way around the branch like a gymnast on the horizontal bar. At the same time, the bird lets out its loud, goofy call [ click here to listen]."
These displays really pay off.  Oropendola are colonial nesters, with an average of 30 nests in a colony, but up to 172 have been recorded.  A dominate (and presumably very tired) male breads with almost all of the females. (See video)

Just as impressive was the nest construction itself.  Our guide demonstrated its strength by filling an empty nest from last year brim full with rocks which it supported easily.  These  nests are nearly impossible to clean from both fecal debris, lice, etc.  This is the likely reason they don't reuse old nests in spite of their sturdy construction.

More on Baltimore Orioles here and there are instructions on how you would go about building an Oriole nest at learner.org.  (It sounds like way too much work.)

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