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Are Birds Nests Reused?

It depends on the species of bird
© C.R. Courson View Large

Let’s talk about nests. Every spring, robins build their cup-shaped nests using grass and mud. Orioles weave a hanging sack. It’s hard work, and yet once the chicks fledge, the structures probably won’t be reused. But bigger birds, such as herons, hawks, and eagles, often reuse a nest for many years. Europe’s migratory White Storks — like those pictured here — get the award for best reuse. One nest site, still used in 1930 and likely seeing many repairs, dated back to 1549. That’s a continuous series of stork pairs nesting in one spot for 381 years!

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Are Bird Nests Reused?

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

Let’s talk about nests. Every spring, robins build their cup-shaped nests using grass and mud. [Robin call, brief snippet, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/133356, 0.06-.08] 

Orioles weave a hanging sack. [Bullock’s Oriole call, brief snippet, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/50152, 0.14-.16]  

It takes a week or two, it’s hard work, and yet once the chicks fledge, mostly the structures won’t be reused. Apart from an oriole scavenging for parts if they return to the old neighborhood next year.

Cliff Swallows, on the other hand, will often reuse nests. They’ll spend a week plastering their mud structure on a sheer cliff face, use it, and the next year — unless parasites have moved in before them — fix it up and they’re good to go. [Cliff Swallow calls, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/111063, 0.10-.15 in background] 

Bigger birds — herons, hawks, or eagles — often reuse a nest for many years. One Bald Eagle pair in Vermilion, Ohio, reused the same nest for 34 years, adding branches each year until it weighed more than two tons. But Europe’s migratory White Storks get the award for best reuse. One nest site, still used in 1930 and likely seeing many repairs over the years, dated back to 1549. That’s a continuous series of stork pairs nesting in one spot for 381 years. [White Stork bill clacking display]

For BirdNote I’m Michael Stein. 

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black

© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org      July 2016     Narrator: Michael Stein 

ID#: nest-06-2015-07-23 nest-06

Oldest White Stork nest cited in Paul Ehrlich, et al., The Birders Handbook, p. 371. 

More on White Stork nests used for hundreds of years http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/05/0525_040525_storks_2.html

Cliff Swallow and Bald Eagle nest facts from BNA Online.

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