Spring Comes to the Gulf Coast

Mar 12, 2020

WUWF Commentator Carl Wernicke

As temperatures began inching up this spring, we once again noticed the birds in our backyard begin sparking and nesting behavior. Sitting on my porch one morning, watching all the commotion, I had a brainstorm.

Hey, I told my wife, we need to get some of those nesting boxes the wrens love and hang them under the eaves. As I was worrying that we were already too late for this spring, I got a lesson.

The birds were way ahead of us.

We noticed a variety of little house wrens ducking in and out of the unscreened side of the porch, and up into some very comfy – for birds, anyway – nooks under the eaves. In fact, we hadn’t really even noticed these nooks, created in the overhang by the framing of the porch roof and trim.

But the birds clearly had.

And, I have to say, they couldn’t be better for nesting than if we had designed them for it. They are inside the porch, under the roofline, high and dry and safe from wind, big birds that eat little birds, snakes and even rodents. They are deep enough to hide the nests and occupants from view. From a bird perspective, it’s a high-rent neighborhood.

And neighborhood it is. There are about 15 of these nooks, separated by rafters that look just like white-painted fences. We have seen at least three separate nesting pairs flying in and out of the porch with sticks in their beaks. I noticed that each pair picked a nook separated from the other nooks; they must not like having neighbors too close. I guess all that cheeping from the hatchlings gets irritating.

There might be even more bird tenants, but part of the porch is not visible from the window in the living room, so we could easily miss them. I call them tenants, but their rent is mainly paid in providing us with hours of entertainment and helping keep the garden clean of insects.

And as I was watching them, a question occurred. I noticed one pair working particularly closely together. One would fly up and disappear into their chosen nook with a stick, while the other would perch on the edge and observe the work. So I wondered: Do they ever disagree on the building of the nest?

I mean, does one bring in a stick and the other says, no, that doesn’t go with the decoration theme. Or, as one laces a stick into the weave of the nest, does the other one say no, not there, over here.

I know, anthropomorphizing animal behavior is frowned upon by experts. But I swear, that one bird was casting a jaundiced eye on what the other one was doing. It just seemed like behavior I recognized. And no, my wife should not read anything into this. Everyone knows you can’t read human behavior into how animals act.