Photo © Keith Williams
Photo © Glenda Simmons

Wanted: Flycatcher Nest Photos

Great Crested Flycatchers and Ash-throated Flycatchers have a curious habit of adding snake skins to their nests. But, why do they do this? If you find a nest of either species this spring, take a photo and submit it to NestWatch to help us understand this unusual behavior. We’re collaborating with Dr. Vanya Rohwer of the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates to address three main questions:

1. Does the use of snake skins in nests vary across the breeding range?

2. Where in the nests do flycatchers place snake skins (e.g., touching eggs, around the entrance hole, or scattered throughout the nest cup)?

3. Do snake skins increase nesting success?

How to take photos: Great Crested and Ash-throated Flycatchers are cavity nesters, so these directions assume that you’ve found a nest in a box. Please take photos looking straight down onto the nest so that the nest cup, eggs/nestlings, and box walls are visible. In order for photos to be used, they must be in focus and sufficiently bright so that we can see snake skins inside the nest (or lack thereof). Whenever possible, avoid using your flash; if flash is necessary, take only one photo and make sure that there are no nest predators nearby. Please submit photos through the mobile app or directly in the nesting data entry form online (please do not submit to the Participant Photos public gallery or via email). In this way, your photos will be directly linked to the nest location, nesting data information, and your user ID.

If you live in an area with an open forest habitat (urban or suburban neighborhoods with mature trees, old orchards, lake or riverside areas with large shade trees) within the range of these species, you can put up a nest box to attract either Great Crested Flycatchers in the east or Ash-throated Flycatchers in the west. For the best chance of success, avoid placing the nest box in open agricultural areas or dense forest.