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Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this?

Posted by viche (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 2, 10 at 17:36

First time posting in the bird forum! Need help ID'ing a nest. I live in Howard County Maryland.

Over the summer I noticed a medium to medium/large sized (maybe crow sized, but my memory is not clear) dark colored bird flying into the dense foliage of our 30 foot tall Little Leaf Linden. I spotted a large nest in the upper branches which looked like it was mainly made of large twigs. The nest is probably almost a foot tall at it's heighest point. It's still there now. I'm not sure if the leaves are original:

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Recently I looked up and noticed that a bunch of branches on the tree were actually stipped bare. All of the branches were smaller in diameter, but some were over 8 feet long:

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Branch on ground:

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Then I looked up and noticed that the nest had gained a huge addition to it's bottom. The addition was made out of light brown material that looked very much like the stripped bark and maybe some long ornamental grasses. The addition probably added another foot, so now this thing was close to 2 feet tall.

I decided to keep an eye on it and figure out what type of animal had moved in and was stripping the bark off my tree. Yesterday I looked up to see a squirrel pop it's head out of the top and then climb down into the addition. He then left the nest and a few minutes later the addition fell to the ground. It's a little crushed now:

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So what kind of bird originally built the twig nest and then who added the addition in the middle of winter? Do squirrels build nests? Could one take over a nest for the winter? Was the squirrel just curious?

Also, will this animal continue to strp the bark off the tree and should I try to remove the remainder of the nest so that it doesn't come back?

Thanks. This is a mystery to me.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

That sure looks like a squirrel nest to me. We get them in the trees all around here. Not sure if squirrels strip bark, but they sure do chew since they are a member of the rodent family.


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

Great. I wonder if it will injure the tree....be gone squirrel!!!


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

Squirrels don't injure trees. If that were so, there would be no trees.

In fact, they help with spreading seeds and planting more trees.


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

Well, that is all very interesting indeed! I had to do a little research, but I did find some info on-line which indicates that Gray Squirrels will strip the bark from the trunks and brances of trees. I had never heard of this before. I also read that their nests are usually made of leaves. Makes me wonder if a bird built the original nest and the squirrel decided to claim and embellish it.


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

Unfortunately, I know too well that gray squirrels eat shrubs, like this euronymus:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I've also seen them running crazy in a very big pussywillow, resulting in a lot of pussywillow twigs dropping to the ground. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they stripped bark from branches of big trees.

About a month ago I saw a squirrel spend most of the day carrying mouthfuls of leaves and grass up to the top of a tree. There are a lot of squirrel nests up in the trees in my neighborhood (and a lot of squirrels on the ground as well).

I agree that most likely a bird started the nest and the squirrel tried to add on to it, but didn't do a very good job.

Claire


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RE RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built t

It could have been the nest of American Crows and they left the debris on the ground. I checked the Birds of North America online site (I can't link to it because it's a subscription site, but I hope it's OK to quote from it) - Great site, well worth joining. If you participated in the GBBC you get a free trial subscription.

Apparently crows sometimes pull living twigs off trees to make their nests, and they line them with various materials including bark strips.

From Birds of North America online site:

"Nest

Construction
Both sexes build nest; no information on relative share of each sex. Although both sexes bring in nest-lining material, female does more of detailed fine-tuning of nest lining than does male (CC). Builds nest mostly between 07:00 and 11:00 (S. S. Dickey in Gross 1946); early in morning, as early as 8 min after sunrise (Reaume 1987b); likely throughout day (CC), as in Northwestern Crow (Verbeek and Butler 1999). New nest distinguishable from old one by presence of fresh, dead twigs on ground below; these twigs fall accidentally and are never retrieved (Reimann 1942). In Encino, CA, and Stillwater, OK, pulls and breaks off living twigs from trees as well as picking up twigs from ground (CC). Gathers materials from different directions around nest tree, not from nest tree itself (Reaume 1987b). Helpers in Florida (Kilham 1989), Cape Cod, MA (Chamberlain-Auger et al. 1990), and in Oklahoma (CC) participated in bringing material to the nest. With 2 adults and several helpers bringing sticks, the congestion around the nest resulted in birds having to wait for a chance to get to the nest; helpers usually left their sticks for the female to work in (Kilham 1989).

Period between completion of nest and egg-laying in Florida 616 d (Kilham 1989), but Emlen (1942) reported building right up to egg-laying in California. Time to complete first nests in California 13 d (range 1117, n = 6 nests [Emlen 1942]; 1014 d [CC]); 5 and 9 d in 2 nests with helpers in Florida (Kilham 1989), 1014 d in Oklahoma (CC). Second nests take less time to build: 9 d (Emlen 1942); 68 d (Graber et al. 1987); 510 d in California and Oklahoma (CC).

Structure And Composition Matter
Bottom and sides consist mainly of dead branches, 0.63.5 cm diameter (Reimann 1942) and usually <61 cm long (Good 1952). Nests in isolated trees in fields, with a shortage of dead twigs available, consisted of as much as 50% grass and other plant stems (Black 1941). Places branches with thick ends outward (Reimann 1942). Materials may include bark pieces, grass, plant stalks, corn husks and stalks, twine, paper, roots, leaves, moss, mud, and cow dung (Reimann 1942, Graber et al. 1987, Peck and James 1987). Lines nest with what is available: fine weed or bark strips (cedar, grapevine, cottonwood [Populus sp.], willow [Salix sp.], maple [Acer sp.], rarely feathers, hair (commonly horse, cow), fur (skunk, rabbit, and squirrel), fleece of sheep, grasses, twine, mosses, plant stalks, pine needles, rootlets, paper, and leaves (Black 1941, Reimann 1942, Graber et al. 1987, Peck and James 1987, Campbell et al. 1997); result is a soft, intricate interior (CC). Most early nests in California contained mud, forming a hard, firm floor; later nests had little or no mud; probably not available then (Emlen 1942). Nests sturdy; often persist for several years and may be used as a nesting platform by other species (see Behavior: social and interspecific, above)."

Claire


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

Wow Claire, that is so interesting. I never knew that Crows would do this. I did some more research and found the same as you. Here is a quote from birdsbybent.com,
"The soft compact lining was entirely of finely separated fibrils of bark, which apparently were shredded by the birds before being placed in position."I wonder if that clump of nest lining material was actually inside the nest, and something tossed it out. Well, there ya go viche. That is most likely the answer. American Crows. Hmmmm..who knew? ;o)


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

I've watched our Fox Squirrel pull long strips of bark of our Elms. He then separates the fibrous backing from the bark and use the fiber in nest building. In our case, the squirrel was using a large wooden nest box we put up. I figured he was using it as insulation.


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

Thanks for the info guys. I'm split though. I can certainly believe that the original nest was from a crow. I've seen lots of crow around and these pictures of crows nests look about the same size:

I might also buy that the soft stuff was the lining:

"Both members of a breeding pair help build the nest. Young birds from the previous year sometimes help as well. The nest is made largely of medium-sized twigs with an inner cup lined with pine needles, weeds, soft bark, or animal hair. Nest size is quite variable, typically 6-19 inches across, with an inner cup about 6-14 inches across and 4-15 inches deep."

But I guess it was just weird that the soft part was hanging directly below the nest when I saw it, and it was just after I noticed all the bark stripped, and then just after that, I saw a squirrel poking its head out.

Here's a picture of a squirrel's nest that looks suspiciously similar:

Either way, with all the snow we've had, I can see how an animal might have resorted to stripping bark. Everything else was burried!

I'm still worried about the tree. There are at least 10 to 15 branches that are stripped bare. Those are all pathways for insects and moisture now. I read on a University extension page that squirrels cause a lot of damage to trees by stripping bark.

Just trying to decide what to do.


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

One positive aspect of bark stripping is the woodpeckers will be grateful. We have lots of dead branches from ice, wind, squirrel damage and the woodpeckers spend 80-90% of their foraging on these dead limbs (w or w/o bark).


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

This looks like the squirrel nests in my neighborhood. I have one right now in the tree right next to my feeders. One of my gray squirrels (I have 5 here almost daily) not only made a nest like this, but he's stolen one finch sock (about a month ago) and just last week stole a red mesh bag I'd filled with nesting materials and hung out for the birds. He snared that a day after I put it out. I saw the red mesh bag (sans nesting material contents) snagged on a branch near the nest. The squirrel was sitting in the nest looking down at me. Smirking, I might add.


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

You could post the question in the Trees Forum on Garden Web. Lots of well-informed people there who can tell you if the tree is seriously damaged and what action, if any, to take.

Claire


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

Thanks. I'll do that!


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

The bark appears to be dead, so I wonder if the squirrel is really damaging your tree or just recycling waste material.

I don't have any squirrels in miles, but crows abound, and a shotgun would fix either nest problem. However, I've never noticed a nest made with living bark. It is always dried before using, and thus would be stripped from a dead branch. Other areas may be different, however.


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RE: Crazy nest with pictures! What type of bird/animal built this

I hate it when I see suggestions of shotguns as solutions for wild animals. Let the poor critters; nest, eat, save nuts and seeds, just live. They do help with the environment in some way, even if seen as pests. What is wrong with squirrels nesting? I doubt if it will kill the tree, just pruning it. lol


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