Carolina Wren

  • A pair bond may form between a male and a female at any time of the year, and the pair will stay together for life. Members of a pair stay together on their territory year-round, and forage and move around the territory together.
  • Near homes, they’re versatile nesters, making use of discarded flowerpots, mailboxes, propane-tank covers, and a variety of other items. Their nests have even been found in old coat pockets and boots. Males often build multiple nest starts, and the female makes the final selection.
  • Male and female Carolina Wrens complete the nest together. One member of the pair may stay at the site while the other gathers material.

Carolina Chickadee

  • Both members of a pair will excavate a nest cavity in rotten wood, or enlarge an abandoned woodpecker cavity.
  • Chickadees often incorporate moss and animal fur into their nests, which the female builds.
  • Where the two species’ ranges come in contact, the Carolina and Black-capped chickadees occasionally hybridize. Hybrids can sing the songs of either species, or might sing something intermediate.

American Robin

  • The robin’s nest is an open cup of grass and twigs held together with a thick layer of mud and lined with fine dry grass.
  • Females build the nest from the inside, pressing dead grass and twigs around them into a cup shape using the wrist of one wing.
  • Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and can be an indicator of chemical pollution.

Wood Duck

  • The Wood Duck nests in trees near water, sometimes directly over water, but other times up to a mile away.
  • If nest boxes are placed too close together, many females lay eggs in the nests of other females.
  • The female lines the nest with down feathers she takes from her breast.

Red-winged Blackbird

  • The Red-winged Blackbird is a highly polygynous species, meaning males have many female mates – up to 15 in some cases. Typically 5 or more females have to crowd their nests into any one male’s territory.
  • Second broods are rare for this species, but they can occur if time permits.
  • Hatching is asynchronous and usually takes place just after sunrise.

Northern Mockingbird

  • The male and female construct the nest together; the male usually begins the nest with the outer foundation while the female finishes up the inner lining.
  • Northern Mockingbirds rarely ever reuse their nests.
  • In the beginning of the nesting season mockingbirds can take more than two weeks to finish a nest, but later in the season they can build a nest in as little as three days, laying an egg on the day the nest is completed.

Northern Cardinal

  • Only a few female North American songbirds sing, but the female Northern Cardinal does, and often while sitting on the nest.
  • Cardinals usually don’t use their nests more than once.
  • Cardinals do not migrate and often begin the nest-building process as early as late February.

Mourning Dove

  • Members of a pair preen each other with gentle nibbles around the neck as a pair-bonding ritual. Eventually, the pair will progress to grasping beaks and bobbing their heads up and down in unison.
  • Mourning Doves sometimes reuse their own or other species’ nests.
  • Mourning Doves commonly build nests in hanging flower pots or other human-made structures.

House Wren

  • The House Wren song is long and complex, and both males and females sing.
  • As the season progresses, House Wren nests can become infested with mites and other parasites that feed on the wren nestlings. Perhaps to fight this problem, wrens often add spider egg sacs into the materials they build their nests from. In lab studies, once the spiders hatched, they helped the wrens by devouring the nest parasites.
  • The House Wren is a fierce competitor for nest holes. They will harass and peck at much larger birds, sometimes dragging eggs and young out of a nest site they want – even occasionally killing adult birds.

House Finch

  • House Finches nest in a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees as well as on cactus and rock ledges.
  • Searching for nest sites is a conspicuous behavior throughout the nesting season. Females appear to do most prospecting, but males follow closely and often re-examine each site searched by the female.
  • House Finches feed their nestlings exclusively plant foods, a fairly rare occurrence in the bird world. Many birds that are vegetarians as adults still feed animal foods to keep their fast-growing young supplied with protein.

Gray Catbird

  • The male Gray Catbird uses his loud song to proclaim his territory. He uses a softer version of the song when near the nest or when a bird intrudes on his territory. The female may sing the quiet song back to the male.
  • Females build the nests, with males sometimes supplying materials.
  • The Gray Catbird’s long song may last for up to 10 minutes.

Eastern Phoebe

  • Nests are generally located near fresh running water.
  • Eastern Phoebes greatly prefer nest sites that are close to overhead cover (i.e., overhangs, ledges).
  • The female constructs the nest from mud, moss, and leaves mixed with grass stems and animal hair.

Eastern Bluebird

  • The male Eastern Bluebird displays at his nest cavity to attract a female. He brings nest material to the hole, goes in and out, and waves his wings while perched above it.
  • The female makes the nest by loosely weaving together grasses and pine needles, then lining it with fine grasses and occasionally horse hair or turkey feathers.
  • After a successful clutch fledges, the female bluebird will often go off to build a second nest, leaving the male to care for the fledged young.

Black-capped Chickadee

  • Both members of a pair will excavate a nest cavity in rotten wood, or enlarge an abandoned woodpecker cavity.
  • Chickadees often incorporate moss and animal fur into their nests, which the female builds.
  • Parental behavior during egg laying includes some mate-guarding, and “courtship” feeding is particularly prominent in response to broken “dee” vocalizations.

Barn Swallow

  • Breeding areas must contain a source of mud (such as a river bank) for incorporation into the nest structure. In drought-prone areas, you can make a Barn Swallow nest cup.
  • Barn Swallows will sometimes reuse old nests, but they avoid ones heavily infested with mites or parasites. They will clean out the old feathers and add new mud to the rim.
  • Barn Swallows once nested in caves throughout North America, but now build their nests almost exclusively on human-made structures.

American Kestrel

  • Kestrels add no nesting material to their simple scrape nest within a cavity.
  • Rarely, kestrels will nest in the old nest of another bird species.
  • The male searches for possible nest cavities. When he’s found suitable candidates, he shows them to the female, who makes the final choice.

American Goldfinch

  • American Goldfinches breed later than most North American birds. They wait to nest until June or July when milkweed, thistle, and other plants have produced their fibrous seeds, which goldfinches incorporate into their nests and also feed their young.
  • Goldfinches are among the strictest vegetarians in the bird world, selecting an entirely vegetable diet and only inadvertently swallowing an occasional insect.
  • The nest is constructed by the female in 3 stages. Stage 1 involves building an open cup of twigs connected by spider silk. In stage 2, a tighter cup of small roots and plant debris is formed. During stage 3, a soft lining of plant pappus or other “downy” material is added to line the nest.

Dark-eyed Junco

  • It’s rare for a junco to reuse a nest.
  • Female juncos choose their nest site, most commonly on the ground near a protruding rock or roots for cover.
  • Occasionally juncos nest near human-made structures like window sills, beams, or hanging plants.

Eastern Towhee

  • Eastern Towhees usually nest on the ground, the nest cup sunk into the fallen leaves up to the level of the rim.
  • Only the female towhee builds the nest.
  • Eastern Towhees are common victims of the parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird. Towhees, unlike some other birds, show no ability to recognize or remove the imposter’s eggs.

Indigo Bunting

  • The female Indigo Bunting builds the nest alone—a process that takes up to 8 days early in the season and as little as 2 days later in the summer.
  • She locates the nest in a crotch or fork where branches meet, amid a supporting network of vertical and diagonal twigs.
  • The nest cup is about 1.5 inches deep inside, with an outside diameter of 3 inches and an inside diameter of 2 inches.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

  • The nest of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak is so thinly constructed that eggs often can be seen from below through the nest.
  • The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak participates in incubation of the eggs.
  • Both sexes sing quietly to each other when they exchange places. The male will sing his normal song while near or actually on the nest.

Blue Grosbeak

  • In the southern part of its breeding range, the Blue Grosbeak commonly raises two broods per year.
  • Brown-headed Cowbirds commonly lay eggs in Blue Grosbeak nests.
  • Many nests incorporate snake skins, but researchers are unsure why.

Brown Thrasher

  • The Brown Thrasher nests in dense shrubs, especially those with thorns.
  • An aggressive defender of its nest, the Brown Thrasher is known to strike people and dogs hard enough to draw blood.
  • Occasionally reuses nests built in previous years.

Song Sparrow

  • The female builds the nest, working mainly during the morning.
  • Females may start but then abandon 1 or 2 (rarely 3) nests before completing the nest that eventually receives eggs.
  • For the first 4 days after hatching, the female closely broods the young.

Purple Martin

  • The Purple Martin is a colony-nesting species, readily using nest boxes with multiple compartments (more common in the east) or individual hollowed gourds strung close together (more common in the west).
  • Purple Martins compete with House Sparrows and European Starlings for nesting sites. By keeping compartments closed until Purple Martins return to their breeding habitat, you can help reduce this competition.
  • The best place to install a martin house is in an open area near water.

Great Crested Flycatcher

  • Many, but not all, Great Crested Flycatcher nests contain shed snakeskin. Other crinkly materials, such as plastic wrappers, cellophane, and onion skin, may be used.
  • A variety of cavity types are selected for nest sites, from abandoned woodpecker holes to knot holes to nest boxes.
  • Both sexes inspect prospective nest sites, but the female does most if not all of the nest-building.

Tufted Titmouse

  • Titmice build cup-shaped nests inside the nest cavity using damp leaves, moss and grasses, and bark strips. They line this cup with soft materials such as hair, fur, wool, and cotton, sometimes plucking hairs directly from living mammals.
  • During incubation, the male feeds the female both on and off the nest.
  • “Helpers” from a previous year’s nest may occasionally aid the breeding pair in raising young.

Tree Swallow

  • Tree Swallows seem to prefer south-facing nest boxes, all else being equal.
  • Nesting Tree Swallows need nearby bodies of water over which to forage for flying insects.
  • The nest is lined with feathers, usually those of waterfowl.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cornell Lab of Ornithology