In the Lower Mainland nesting season for birds generally occurs between March 15th and August 15th. For many local birders and naturalists this time of year is marked by extreme excitement and anticipation. What type of nests can you expect to find in regional parks? The possibilities are endless!
Before you get too excited…
There are many things to keep in mind when birding. We like to remind ourselves of the following three rules whenever we leave the house with binoculars in hand.
- Be observant not obtrusive.
- Keep your hands to yourselves.
- If a bird is showing signs of distress (e.g. rapid, alarm-like calls) leave the area. They are likely viewing you as a threat to their eggs/young.
*If a bird appears to be injured or in significant distress you can always call a local wildlife rescue center for their expert opinion. The Wildlife Rescue Association of BC can be reached at 604-526-7275.
What to look for
The regional parks network is vast and represents several habitat types. Accordingly, a short trip to the park may expose a variety of nests. In celebration of the beginning of nesting season and the extraordinary world of birds, we will be highlighting three of our favourite nests in the region.
1). American bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)
If you live in the Lower Mainland, it’s likely that you’ve encountered a flock of bumbling bushtits hopping from branch to branch in a nearby tree. These tiny, grey songbirds are extremely active and can be found traveling in large mixed flocks alongside similar songbirds like chickadees and kinglets.
The bushtit nest is a favourite for many birders. Unlike other bird nests, this nest hangs from a tree branch. They measure 6-12 inches in length and have a small opening at the top, resembling a tiny sleeping bag to the average human. The nest begins as a stretchy sac made of spider webs and plant materials and evolves to a long, pendulous home decorated with moss, lichen and other camouflaged plant material.
Tracking tip: Bushtits are extremely common- if the park has open woodland or scrubby features, you’re likely to see a bushtit. We recommend taking a trip to Colony Farm.
2). Pileated woodpecker (Hylatomus pileatus)
If you frequent the coniferous forests of Capilano River, Pacific Spirit, Belcarra, or Lynn Headwaters you’ve probably come across a pileated woodpecker. The large, striking birds are known for the huge cavities they create in dead or mature trees. The nests commonly feature an oblong entrance shape, and a depth of 10-24 inches.
Unlike bushtits, pileated woodpeckers keep their nests as simple as possible- one large cavity with nothing but leftover wood chips from excavation.
Tracking tip: Head over to the north shore and visit Capilano River and Lynn Headwaters. Both parks feature mature coniferous forests home to many species of woodpeckers.
3). Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna)
Anna’s hummingbirds are another common species across the Lower Mainland. You’re likely to find these brilliant birds hovering over flowers. The remarkable thing about these hummingbird nests is their size. The tiny nests are 1-inch-tall by 1.5 inches in diameter. The female builds the nest out of plant materials and spider webs and decorates the outside with lichens and mosses for camouflage.
Tracking tip: As a common species to the region, Anna’s hummingbird nests can be seen across a number of regional parks. If you’re lucky, you may even have a nest in your own yard! Look for the camouflaged nests, about the size of a small espresso cup, 6-20 feet off the ground on the branch of a tree or shrub.