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Birds can pick odd places for their nests

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By Sharon Wootton
Herald Columnist
In any group there are those who listen to a different drummer. Birds are no exception.
Some ignore their species' traditional build-in-a-tree approach to nests.
I have a photograph of a bird's nest precariously sitting on an electric meter attached to a house, just around the corner from the front door.
"You can find bird nests in the most surprising places," said Karen Purcell, who created the Funky Nests in Funky Places contest several years ago as part of the Cornell Lab's Celebrate Urban Birds citizen-science project.
"We've seen them in helmets, old boots, stoplights, store signs, car tires, clotheslines, mailboxes, potted plants and even a stuffed moose head!"
The contest goes beyond photographs.
Entries may be photos, videos, artwork, poems or stories. People of all ages are welcome to participate as individuals or with a class, community center or after-school program.
Prizes include binoculars, bird feeders, cameras, iPads and other rewards.
Find more information about how to find nests, how to approach nests without disturbing the birds, and to enter the contest at
Celebrate Urban Birds is a free, year-round project that focuses on the arts, creating green spaces for birds and learning how birds use urban spaces.
Here are a few funky facts about nests, provided by the Cornell Lab:

  • Most common backyard birds lay two to eight eggs. Hatching usually begins about two weeks after the last egg is laid, and it takes another two weeks before the young are ready to leave the nest.
  • Even if a nest has been built in a somewhat inconvenient place (for you), be patient. In a few weeks the birds will be gone. Meanwhile, you get a front-row seat to a wonder of nature.
  • Baby birds have brightly colored beaks that help parents hit the bull's-eye with food.
  • For their first three days of life, nestling pigeons depend solely on "pigeon milk," a liquid loaded with protein and fat that is produced by both the mother and father.

Nearing the end: We recently caught a National Geographic lecture, "Birds of Paradise: Extreme, Bizarre, Extraordinary" by photographer Tim Laman and ornithologist Ed Scholes.
Before, I thought that the birds of paradise were fascinating and beautiful, but now I have a new appreciation. The two photographed (39,568 images) and wrote about all 39 species in their natural habitat of New Guinea.
The otherworldly images and bizarre (to us) behaviors caught on video were fascinating. One species could only be captured at the top of the rainforest canopy, about 165 feet up, at dawn or dusk.
During mating season, the birds of paradise are performance in motion. Since there are few predators, the evolution of the birds came through sexual selection rather than the survival of the fittest, according to scientists.
Complex courtship behaviors and looks play the largest role.
Lecture: The last of the National Geographic series at Benaroya Hall is "In Search of the Ancient Maya" For more than a decade, archaeologist William Saturno has searched for clues to Mayan mysteries, making important discoveries along the way.
Although the May 19 lecture at Benaroya is sold out, there are some tickets left for the 7:30 p.m. May 20 to 21 shows. Call 866-833-4747.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or
Story tags » Bird-watching

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