Watching bird builders achieve annual spring feats of avian engineering

The writer has run across a few impressive bird nests lately in his ramblings, with the most impressive being an eagle nest (above) and a feather-lined mallard nest (below).

My wife and I were tossing swimming jigs to shore around a small island hoping to drum up the interest of a northern pike when a bald eagle cast a shadow across the water. The bird sailed into the trees, and when we rounded a bend, we could see its destination.

The eagle’s white head poked above the branches, and we marveled at the size of the nest. I can’t prove this, or at least won’t, but an eagle’s nest up close looks like it could support a human. I can’t imagine how many hours it took for it to be built, or just how much weight in materials it contains. I know that an eagle’s nest is impressive, and I’m planning on bringing the girls there during the next couple of weeks to see if we can hear or see any eaglets in there.

Perhaps it’s just being simple-minded, but I’m fascinated by an awful lot that happens in nature. That oversized nest ranks way up there on my list of things critters shouldn’t be able to accomplish, but obviously can.

I had another encounter recently … while less impressive overall than the eagle’s well-built home, it was pretty cool.

I was hiking through a swampy area back to my truck and flushed a bird out of some brush. At first I assumed it was a pheasant, but soon realized that it was a lady mallard. She’d launched from a feather-lined nest full of eggs. I snapped a quick photo and left so she could get back to sitting on her future ducklings. The nest, tucked into a small clump of shrubs would be nearly invisible to any passers-by, and by all accounts, looked pretty comfortable in its construction. On a smaller scale, the mallard nest was as impressive as the eagle’s.

I won’t be bringing the girls to see that nest, however. The walk would be a lot to ask, and the mosquitoes would likely carry them off. Plus, I don’t want to disturb that ground-nesting hen. She’s got plenty to handle over the next few months and doesn’t need us poking around her nursery.

Categories: Tony Peterson

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