Is it nor­mal to see baby birds in Jan­uary?

Bird Watching (UK) - - Your View -

QWhile walk­ing in New­cas­tle city cen­tre in mid-jan­uary I came across a Mis­tle Thrush in a tree. Upon a closer look I found it to have a nest with chicks! Is this un­usual, as to my knowl­edge they should not be nest­ing un­til March-april. They seem to be do­ing fine, and the adults are get­ting plenty of food for them. Matthew Car­roll, New­cas­tle

AIt is un­usual to see this, but not un­heard-of, and the rea­son why it hap­pens prob­a­bly has some­thing to do with the mi­cro-cli­mates that we get within our cities – win­ter tem­per­a­tures can be sev­eral de­grees above those in the sur­round­ing coun­try­side, be­cause of the heat cre­ated by hu­man struc­tures and ac­tiv­i­ties. Wood­pi­geons can nest at pretty much any time of year, and semi-tame Mal­lards have been known to nest in win­ter, while Stock Doves and Moorhens both have breeding sea­sons that can start very early and end very late. Where song­birds are con­cerned, though, we’ve heard of, and seen, pre­vi­ous ex­am­ples in­volv­ing Black­birds and Song Thrushes, in­clud­ing one of the lat­ter us­ing the sun-visor of an am­ber traf­fic light as a plat­form for its nest, thus clev­erly gain­ing con­stant heat from the red light! Mis­tle Thrushes aren’t es­pe­cially early nesters, but the males do sing from early win­ter or even late au­tumn, in­clud­ing in the worst win­ter weather (hence their old name of ‘storm­cock’), so they do po­ten­tially get a head start on pair­ing off. One fi­nal pos­si­bil­ity is that th­ese are young, first-time breed­ers, and that they’re ef­fec­tively test­ing the lim­its of when they can and can’t breed.

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