Common Yellowthroat Nest

June 8, 2012

By Mike Coll, Preserve Manager

Virtually every bird you see this time of year is involved in some part of the process of rearing young. They are either sitting on eggs, feeding young in the nest, feeding young outside of the nest, or they are young birds themselves (with few exceptions).

A few days ago I was in the upper meadow at Hildacy and I noticed that one of the many Common Yellowthroats I was seeing was carrying a grasshopper in its mouth. I deduced correctly that the bird was bringing food to its young and I slowly backed away while keeping on eye on it to see where it went next. The bird was obviously conscious of a potential predator (me) and was not immediately willing to give away the location of its nest. But after patiently waiting some distance away I watched the bird drop down into the grasses and when he came back up he no longer had the grasshopper in his mouth. After a quick investigation (predators often need to be smarter than their prey) I was able to locate the nest.

Photo: Mike Coll

Photo: Mike Coll

I was surprised to see Yellowthroats nesting right on the ground in the grasses. Often Yellowthroats make their nests in shrubs or trees surrounding a field and because of this they are not usually lumped into the category of “ground nesting birds.” But as this example shows there are other species that will at times make a nest on the ground and it is a compelling reason to wait until at least July to mow meadows even if you aren’t seeing Bobolinks or Meadowlarks on your property.

Another interesting thing about this encounter was that the adult bird had a silver band on its leg–almost undoubtedly one of the birds that was banded by Doris and Lisa at the recent bird banding event at Hildacy!