By Shaun Clarke
BYLT Land Access Manager
It’s spring, and from April to July, ground nesting birds are searching for a place to lay their eggs. Please be mindful this season and remember to leash your dog and walk quietly with your children to protect local wildlife.
“Birds can pick the strangest places to nest, like in gutters, kitchen fan vents, or even right near a front door. While many birds rely on nest cavities or build elaborate structures, it’s a good reminder to be on the lookout. Depending on where you live, knowing when and where local birds assemble nests can be a great way to help them this season,” according to a news release by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Tampering with an active nest is against the law. If you find a nest, the best thing to do is leave it be!
Ground nests come in all different shapes and sizes from a small hole in the ground to a burrow. This could be in blackberry bushes, tall grass along the water’s edge, or a simple scrape in the earth. Birds make a nest to protect their eggs and keep them warm during the incubation period.
Eggs on the ground are vulnerable to predation which means many birds spend much of their time guarding their nests. Ducks, geese and swans make their nests on the ground because their young are quite developed with the ability to walk and swim right after hatching. Getting young in the water offers the best protection from predators like raccoons and foxes.
A few song birds – wood and hermit thrushes, the Northern junco, meadowlark and bobolink all nest on the ground, even in areas where trees and shrubs are available. When their young are newborns they are especially vulnerable to predators.
Partridge, pheasant, quail, and other game birds such as turkey and grouse typically nest on the ground in fields or meadows. Killdeer also nest on the ground and if you get near their nest they will lead you away from it while pretending to have a broken wing. I have seen them mostly in fields that are being cultivated for farming.
Buzzards and Peregrine Falcons nest on the ground, too, but usually not in places where a dog off leash could disturb them. There are quite a few species that can easily be disturbed by a dog off leash and we want to minimize that disturbance. Learn more about ground-nesting birds and keep animals close by. The Common Poorwill, American Pipit, and some Sparrows are also ground nesters.
Dogs can also have an impact on birds nesting low in shrubs and bushes. These include Red-winged blackbirds, Goldfinches, Brewer’s Blackbirds, California Thrashers, Lazuli Bunting, the Dusky Flycatcher, and the Northern Harrier.
We want you to enjoy the trail with your dog, but please keep your pet on a leash and always remember to clean up after them. Your dog doesn’t know any better, but you do.
Learn ways to help nesting birds here
Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Caption: You never know where you might find a bird nest. These robins found the perfect spot for a nest in a wood pallet.