The Strange Nesting Places of Birds

by Unknown

With the return of spring every year the trees take new life, and begin to bud and put forth their leaves. At the same time the birds also feel, as it were, a throb of new life, and begin to busy themselves with the building of their nests, in which, when the weather is warmer, they will lay their eggs and rear their young ones. At these times they are bolder than usual, and timid birds, which in the winter and autumn seek the most secluded woods and distant fields, often build in gardens quite near to houses or to places where men are at work. The habits of birds when they are building their nests are very interesting, and sometimes rather puzzling.

"A wren built its nest in the pocket." "A wren built its nest in the pocket."

As a rule they take great care to place their nests where they will be screened from observation and safe from injury; but at times they appear to be utterly reckless, and build in some place where there seems to us to be every probability that the nests will be disturbed. The little wren, for instance, usually builds its nest in some hole in an ivy-covered tree or in a thatch. When it builds in a more open place, it is careful to cover its nest with a dome or roof, leaving a hole in the side for its own passage in and out. It covers its nest on the outer side with green moss or brown leaves, selecting those materials which are similar in colour to the surroundings of the nest. The nest is on this account difficult to see, and the white eggs speckled with red, which are laid in it, are hidden from view by the dome of the nest. Very often, too, the bird has been known to build false nests, or 'dummies,' in order to mislead visitors into thinking that it has been driven away.

But though the wren usually takes all this care to hide its nest and its eggs from observation, it is sometimes just as careless and builds in strange places, where it is almost sure to be noticed. It will boldly make its nest in the hat of a scarecrow, which is intended to frighten birds away. A little while ago, according to the newspapers, one of these birds built its nest and hatched its eggs in the pocket of a child's old waistcoat which had been thrown aside as useless. Other birds often display the same boldness or carelessness. Many years ago a swallow occupied for two years a nest which had been built upon the handles of a pair of garden-shears which leaned against the boards in the interior of an out-house. These were all very unlikely places for nests, not only because they were very different from the kind of situations usually selected, but still more because they were liable to be disturbed at any time. If the farmer had resolved to move his scarecrow, if a rag-man had picked up the waistcoat, or if the gardener had come for the shears, the nest would in each case have been removed or destroyed. And yet there is good reason to believe that the parent birds and their young ones fared just as well in their strange quarters as they would have done in a tree-trunk or a cranny of the walls. The truth is, perhaps, that all thoughtful and kindly people admire the courage, industry, and devotion of birds when they are building their nests and rearing their young, and take every care not to disturb them unnecessarily.