Gateway to the Classics: Handbook of Nature Study: Birds by Anna Botsford Comstock
Handbook of Nature Study: Birds by  Anna Botsford Comstock

Lesson XXXV

The Study of Birds' Nests in Winter

There are very good reasons for not studying birds' nests in summer, since too much familiarity on the part of eager children is something the birds do not understand and are likely, in consequence, to abandon both nest and locality. But after the birds have gone to sunnier climes and the empty nests are the only mementos we have of them, then we may study these habitations carefully and learn how to properly appreciate the small architects which made them. I think that every one of us who carefully examines the way that a nest is made must have a feeling of respect for its clever little builder.

I know of certain schools where the children make large collections of these winter nests, properly labelling each, and thus gaining a new interest in the bird life of their locality. A nest when collected should be labelled in the following manner:

      Name of the bird which built the nest.

      Where the nest was found.

      If in a tree, what kind?

      How high from the ground?

Bird Homes, by A. R. Dugmore, is a book which affords practical help in determining the species of birds which made the nests.

After a collection of nests has been made, let the pupils study them according to the following outline:

1. Where was the nest found?

a. If on the ground, describe the locality.

b. If on a plant, tree or shrub, tell the species, if possible.

c. If on a tree, tell where it was on a branch, in a fork, or hanging by the end of the twigs.

d. How high from the ground, and what was the locality?

e. If on or in a building, how situated?

2. Did the nest have any arrangement to protect it from rain?

3. Give the size of the nest, the diameter of the inside and the outside; also the depth of the inside.

4. What is the form of the nest? Are its sides flaring or straight? Is the nest shaped like a cup, basket or pocket?

5. What materials compose the outside of the nest and how are they arranged?

6. Of what materials is the lining made, and how are they arranged? If hair or feathers are used, on what creature did they grow?

7. How are the materials of the nest held together, that is, are they woven, plastered, or held in place by environment?

8. Had the nest anything peculiar about it either in situation, construction or material that would tend to render it invisible to the casual glance?

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