Written By: Sarah Girton
Happy Spring! This is such an exciting time of year. Many plants and animals are waking up from their dormancy, migrators are returning. Our bird friends have a lot going on in their lives right now. Many are finding new mates, or strengthening bonds with current ones. Most are constructing new nests, with some adding on to existing ones. All of these activities are in service of the main event: bringing new young into the world. Have you ever wondered just how your feathered visitors accomplish this amazing task? Let’s take a closer look at seven common backyard birds of our native Colorado:
- House Finch
A very common bird at feeders, the cheery house finch prefers to build a cup-nest made of grasses and twigs. They will sometimes build on manmade structures like flower baskets or houses. Both the male and female will aid in construction, with the female then taking up incubation duties once the eggs are laid.
Most house finches will raise multiple broods per year. They have a pretty long nesting season, starting in February or March depending on location, and running through August!
2. Red-Breasted Nuthatch
This acrobatic little bird prefers to construct their nest in a tree cavity, usually one that they have excavated themselves, but they will also take over an old woodpecker nest if one is suitable. The male and female both take part in this process. Once born, the babies will receive food from both mom and dad, until they are ready to fledge around two weeks.
Unlike the house finch, red-breasted nuthatches usually only raise one brood per year.
3. Blue Jay
The Blue Jay is truly a fascinating bird, with their gorgeous blue plumage, hilarious antics, and high intelligence. They also make wonderful parents! The male and female will construct a cup nest in a tree or bush, preferably higher than 10 feet from the ground. Blue jays will raise 1 or 2 broods per year. Their young will hang around for several months after fledging, as they learn all they can about finding food until fall arrives.
Breeding season for the blue jay runs from March through July.
4. American Goldfinch
Who doesn’t delight in watching this sunny-yellow beauty? Another fan of the cup nest, the female goldfinch is solely responsible for construction. But don’t worry, the male is a fantastic parent and devoted mate! After the eggs are laid, he will bring food to his mate so that she doesn’t ever have to stop incubating.
Goldfinches have a very late nesting season, usually not starting until late July. Since they are almost totally vegetarian, they must wait for seeds to be plentiful in order to have the resources to raise young.
5. Mountain Bluebird
These striking little birds are another species that prefers to excavate cavity nests. They are also fond of taking up residence in man made bird houses. Fun fact: a bluebird will usually only nest in places similar to the kind they were hatched in. For example, if they came into this world in a man made birdhouse, they will only seek out that type of home in future nesting seasons.
Mountain Bluebirds can have up to two broods per year, during the summer months.
6. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
The broad-tailed hummingbird mother has truly mastered the cup nest. One of the chief materials used is spider silk, which allows the little nest to expand as the babies grow. Another unique feature of these birds in relation to the ones we’ve already discussed is that the male takes no part in raising his young or tending to the mother.
These little birds arrive to their breeding grounds in mid to late April, depending on location. If there is time, the female will raise multiple broods in one season.
7. Black-capped Chickadee
This perky little bird is a favorite of many, due to their attractive black mask, and rather rotund figure. They also prefer to excavate their own nests or will take up residence in a birdhouse. A few favored nesting materials are moss and animal fur; quite the comfy little bed! Mom is the one to incubate, while dad brings her lots of tasty bugs.
Nesting season runs from April through June. Chickadees typically only produce one brood per season.
Hopefully you learned a little something about a few of our favorite backyard birds! Have you been lucky enough to have nesting birds in your yard? Feel free to leave a comment below — we would love to hear your stories!