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Signs of nest building are everywhere in Charlotte

Pileated woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker Debbie Foster

Last Saturday I watched several birds fully engaged in gathering nesting materials and in nest building. And why not? It was about 80 degrees. I wonder if some of them thought they had somehow missed spring entirely and we were getting into summer!

Along Four-Mile Creek Greenway a pileated woodpecker was putting the finishing touches on a nest hole high in the dead top of a tulip poplar. Then the bird ducked inside the cavity and disappeared for a while, completing the interior renovations I assume.

Where the greenway passes under Elm Lane, an Eastern phoebe was refurbishing last year’s nest under the bridge. The female would hover at the bases of mossy tree trunks and pluck the moss until she had a bill-full. She would then fly back to the existing mud nest plastered to the smooth, sheer concrete surface and begin to decorate the exterior with the moss. Later, she will use the same materials to line the soft cup where the eggs will lie.

Later, I noticed a very drab female pine warbler being followed by a bright yellow male as she examined the lower trunks of trees. Several times she stopped at thick poison ivy vines that were growing up the trunks and would pick off the hair-like tendrils that anchor the vines to the trees. She then flew off to a small stand of pines to add the material to the developing cup nest there. The male dutifully followed her every bit of the way but wasn’t allowed to participate in the gathering and construction. Every few minutes he would burst into song, so at least he was doing his duty of protecting the territory.

One great blue heron nest is visible from the greenway, and it appeared there was a bird hunkered down on the large stick platform. Red-shouldered hawks were noisy, and I’m sure they are building nests already too. I haven’t seen anything going in and out of my bird boxes yet, but it should be any day. It’s a great time to be watching for nesting behaviors.

Note: The photo of the burrowing owl from last week’s column should have been credited to Sam Cooper, a great birder from Wilmington.

Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com