Searching for abandoned bird nests in winter is a favorite activity of mine. With trees and shrubs bare of leaves, what was hidden is now visible. What we see in winter are the nests that were strongly built and were able to last through harsh weather. The nests built on the ground, in depressions or in sand, are all disintegrated by now. The nests that remain have survived rain, snow, and heavy winds.
Where to Find Abandoned Bird Nests
- holes in trees
- at the end of tree branches
- in the forks of branches
- in shrubs and thickets
Who Made the Nest?
It is hard to tell what species made a nest without eggs or birds. I like to observe what materials the nests are made from. This way I know what materials to offer in nesting season. Putting out nesting materials brings birds to my backyard habitat.
Here are some things to observe about nests.
- Is the nest flimsy or substantial?
- Shape – Is the nest cup-shaped, pouch, platform or another shape?
- Foundation – Does it sit in a fork of branches?
- Is there a layer of mud inside the nest?
- What is the nest made of?
After locating a nest, I like to photograph them, I don’t disturb the nests because some of these nests will be used by mice as a den in harsh weather.
Nature Journal Prompts
- make sketches or photos of abandoned bird nests
- take photographs of nests and tape them in your nature journal
- try to guess who made the nest
I hope this post proves helpful on your walks and hikes as he weather turns cold. As always feel free to add your comments or questions in the comments below.
Recommended Field Guides
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Eastern Bird Nests by Hal H. Harrison (Peterson Field Guide) which I think has the same photos from the 1978 version even though the copyright is 1998. Perhaps, the text was updated and not the photos. But being a Peterson guide it is an excellent book.
Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds by Paul Baicich and Colin J. O. Harrison does not have photos or illustrations of nests, just descriptions of the common nest type each bird builds. It is a good reference for chicks and eggs.
Bird Tracks & Sign : A Guide to North American Species by Mark Elbroch, et al.