White Breasted Nuthatches

They’ve been working on building a nest in the nest box since February. This is the second year I’ve watched them more closely, taken notes and I think I understand better their strategy.

The first thing they do is empty out the old nest(s) – dumping unwanted nest material on the ground and saving the bits they like in the bark on the trees. Last year they accomplished this rather quickly, and a couple of trees wore quite a furry covering. This year, though, they’ve taken their time. I think they may have staked their claim on the box early as I’ve seen them protect it from other interested parties. It was used three times last year, once by them, once by the Mountain Chickadees and once by the Violet-Green Swallows (all successful nestings).

This year, they cleaned it out like before, and started with a lining of tree bark. I’ve watched them work consistently at the bits in the tree bark – pushing them in farther, pulling them out and effectively felting the fur and other bits together into small balls. Occasionally, they’ll beat them on the side of the bird box, take them in, and bring them out again to wedge back into the bark on the tree. Maybe not aired out good enough? Or maybe not felted quite to the right consistency? Or maybe they’re shaping them. Do they want ones that are the same size as their eggs to act as decoys should an intruder get in? Things like this raise more questions for me than answers. I guess I need to do some research to see what their eggs look like.

As an experiment, I’ve left out hunks of our Samoyed, Taylor’s fur (I have GOT to give her a good grooming here soon as she’s blowing coat), some in loose piles wedged between the tree and the bird box, and some already rolled into felted balls in the same place. They snagged the felted balls immediately, but  pretty much ignored the loose fur or dropped it to the ground to blow a bit farther away. If their eggs aren’t white, then I can see why they wouldn’t take the time or energy to make pure white felted balls, but if one already made presented itself, why not?

The other day I waited until they both flew off to the neighbor’s house to feed and ran out to take a peek inside. This week they’ve spent more time just ‘in’ the bird box, looking out. LOTS of little felted balls – including the ones I created from Taylor’s undercoat. The nest has a very high front and deep pocket in the center. On top was rabbit fur, but  the mirror showed no eggs at this point. But, they were soon back at it again – felting tiny balls of fur.


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