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Right in time for Mother’s Day, we have a hummingbird nest filled with two baby hummingbirds outside our upstairs front window. There is a creeping fig vine that climbs over the front door and this is the fifth time hummingbirds have nested on it.

baby hummingbird

Do you think that is the mother bird or a baby? We know from experience that it is a baby because the mother's beak is much longer relative to her head size. As you can see, the mother bird is a bit messy about the bird droppings.

I’m afraid this isn’t the best photo. The circumstances are less than ideal to take a photo and I didn’t want to disturb the chicks in any way. The nest is incredibly tiny and very hard to spot.

Take a look around your neighborhood and see if you can locate any birds making nests. You might want to take photos and make records of what is happening to the nest over time. Always be sure to respect the birds and stay well out of their way as much as possible.

If you want more opportunities to watch birds, you can put up bird nest boxes. Take a look at Nestwatch for ideas and projects.

If you can’t find a nest to watch, check the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Nest Cams.
If you have a sensitive youngster, be aware that the owls and hawks feed their young animal prey and it shows on some of the cams.

Looking back, we have had quite a few posts about birds. Here are links to a few.
Build a Bird Nest (Human-sized)

Bird Watching and Making Nest Cards

Desert Bird Curriculum Guide

Pigeon Watching

Have fun and let us know what you see.

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about a mystery in our back yard. You may recall that bits of glass were appearing on our patio and in our yard, particularly near where we had water available. I wasn’t sure how the pieces were getting there.

After reading my post, my son “confessed” he was the source of the glass chip. It was from a broken bottle. He also pointed out, however, that he had found bits of glass mosaic near another part of our lawn where water collects periodically.

As you may have figured out from the title of the post and the feather clue, I think the culprit is a bird. We have many birds that regularly visit our yard, including house finches and a variety of doves. But the evidence points to other regular visitors:  the great-tailed grackles, Quiscalus mexicanus.

great-tailed grackle

The great-tailed grackles look like regular grackles, except the males have a much longer tail. The female great-tailed grackles are brown, whereas female regular grackles are black. The males have iridescent colors on their necks and backs, similar to pigeons. Here is a female:

great-tailed grackle

One of the most striking aspects of great-tailed grackles is the male’s display to females. The male raises his beak to the sky, straight up. A bunch of males often perform this behavior together.

great-tailed grackle

Why do I think the grackles may be involved in the glass mystery?

Clue Number 1:

Many people have reported that crows and magpies are attracted to shiny objects, and often “steal” things away to their nests.

In fact, one of their relatives, the starling, has been caught in the act stealing money from a car wash.

We do get an occasional starling, but the grackles are in the yard for long periods every day.

Clue Number 2:

Grackles are known to dunk hard pieces of food in water to soften them. For evidence, see this video. The video is rather long, but the section that shows the dunking behavior by the birds starts right after the written commentary.

Clue 3. Great-tailed grackles have been reported to drop chicken bones from trash into people’s back yards.

Clue 4. Grackles have been reported to toss berries or small stones to one another.

Although the evidence implicates the grackles, I have yet to catch them in the act. They are obviously smart and playful birds and it may be hard to find out for sure what they are up to. If I do, I will let you know.

If you are interested in bird behavior, check these books for more information.

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior by David Allen Sibley

The Life of Birds DVD by David Attenborough

If you are interested in birds and/or flight, this is a stunning movie.

Winged Migration (2001) Starring: Philippe Labro, Jacques Perrin Director: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud Rating: G Format: DVD

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binocular boy

Don’t you love it when you find a really great curriculum on-line for free? This weekend I found a terrific educational resource about birds. The author says it’s for elementary grades, but I think it could definitely be used at higher grades as well, with some modifications.

The guide is called “Desert Birding in Arizona, with Focus on Urban Birds" by Doris Evans, illustrated by Doris Evans and Kim Duffek. Although the book definitely emphasizes desert birds, many of the topics covered could be applied anywhere. For example, the first section answers the question, “Why study birds?” It’s relaxing, it gets us outdoors and birds can be observed year around. All those apply no matter where you are studying. The information in this curriculum guide would also be good to add to a unit on deserts.

The curriculum is available as a .pdf file. Go to the Arizona Fish and Wildlife, Focus:  WILD Arizona page, scroll all the way down to the bottom to “Additional Resources” and you’ll find a link to the Desert Birding in Arizona .pdf file. While you are visiting, you can see all the other educational materials available.

Hope you find it useful. Don’t forget to check page 35 for more information about rock doves (pigeons). 🙂