|We all find bird nests from time to
time and some of us even construct them at summer camp. I found the nest at the right one
day as I walked deep inside a soybean field. Obviously a recent storm had blown it there.
The nest is 2.5 inches across (6.5 cm), is covered on the outside with lichens, and most of the nest's body is composed of thin
grass fibers, and what looks like fuzzy padding from a hunter's falling-apart chair left
in the woods!
At the left you can see a close-up of some of the lichens adorning the nest's exterior. These lichens were put there by the bird building the nest. They help waterproof the nest and camouflage it. When I picked up the nest the first two questions that popped into my mind were:
After a little poking at the nest I knew: spider webs.
Gently I pulled apart one corner of the nest and saw what is shown at the right. White, silky strands of spider web stretched across the tear. You know that most spider webs are sticky so that insects caught in them have a hard time escaping. That sticky stuff makes a fantastic glue for keeping certain bird nests together.
WHO BUILT THAT NEST?
Let me tell you how I figured out what kind of bird had built this nest. My detective work was fun, and it's exactly the kind of fun you can have, too. I began my deductive process by paying attention to these details:
GOOGLE TO THE RESCUE!
At this point I Googled the nest. In other words, I went to the Google search engine and when the word box came up I typed in these words: bird nest spider web lichen. That's not very grammatical, but search engines look for keywords, not good grammar.
Google did not come up with a warbler. It came up with several pages on the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which is an even smaller woodland bird than the warblers I'd been thinking about. The problem with Ruby-crowned Kinglets, however, is that they are not found in my area during the summer, and I found this new-looking nest in the summer!
Nonetheless, mention of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet was important, for we do have a small woodland bird here during the summer which belongs to the same family as the kinglets, and that's the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. And usually birds in the same family build rather similar nests.
Now I re-Googled my nest, this time using Google's "Images" feature, using the key words blue-gray gnatcatcher nest. And up came pictures of nests looking as much like my nest as they possibly could. I also Googled warbler nest and saw that most warbler nests are not covered with lichens and aren't nearly as neat and roundish as my gnatcatcher nest.
Therefore: Blue-gray Gnatcather!
Nest-Googling is something you should remember the next time you find a bird nest. Why not try it now, using my key words, or some you make up? Here:
So, the thing to remember when you want to identify a nest is, first, pay attention to the four characteristics outlined above and then Google the nest to confirm or reject your suspicion.