SUSAN’S FAVOURITE NESTS
Susan is fascinated by all nest types, but she is particularly interested in the more unusual examples, such as a ‘doubledecker’ nest, which was built by a goldfinch. These colourful birds normally make neat, cup-shaped nests, lined with materials such as hair, thistledown and feathers, so she was surprised when she was given a large, less-than-elegant goldfinch nest. It was only after examining it closely that she realised it was actually two nests, with the newer nest built on top of the first. “Amazing, and so clever and inventive,” she says of this example of instinctive recycling.
Another unusual nest Susan came across was built by a House sparrow in her attic. House sparrows normally build fairly untidy, domed nests, using feathers and grasses, but she describes this particular nest as “completely bonkers”. Measuring 13in (33cm) long, it is much bigger than usual, as the bird had filled all the available space on a small window ledge, piling up a tangle of wool, plant down, twine and twigs to make a base for the cosy little nest above it. What makes its construction particularly impressive, however, is the inclusion of pigeon feathers, longer than the sparrow itself, that it had to drag through a small ventilation pipe to reach its building site. “The determination to get the feathers through and into place is amazing,” says Susan. “I love this nest: it’s just so mad. You would think that a modest little sparrow would have a modest little nest, but no such thing.”
Among Susan’s favourite nest types is the surprisingly substantial one built by the tiny wren. She is drawn to these nests in part due to the making process. The cock wren builds five or six nests by himself and then his mate decides which nests she prefers. When she has made her choice, the pair work together to line the nest with feathers and hair. “It’s so sweet and romantic, and the nests are lovely,” says Susan.
The nests of the Long-tailed tit are another favourite. These dense, oval shaped nests are woven together out of moss, lichen and grass, held in place by cobwebs, which Susan explains is a perfect building material, as it is sticky, strong and lightweight. It is lined with tiny, downy feathers, all carefully arranged so that the quills stick outwards to avoid damaging the young birds. However, the most ingenious part of the construction is the fact that the cobweb and moss create a slightly elastic material, allowing the nest to expand as the youngsters grow. “It’s rather wonderful,” says Susan.