I was driving along Country Club Road last week when I noticed a gray catbird half- flying half- running through a front yard and carrying a shiny, hefty tangle of Christmas tree tinsel.
The bird seemed quite pleased with its prize and clearly was on a mission to take it somewhere. I am sure the catbird was going to adorn a nest with the tinsel, and it got me thinking about birds that like to use shiny objects in their nests.
Much has been written about some birds' habits of incorporating a shed snake skin into their nests. Great-crested flycatchers are notorious for doing it.
Theories as to why range from predator defense to camouflage to vanity. I am not sure that the snake skin scares away predators but it could camouflage the nest.
I cannot recall ever seeing a snake skin in a wood thrush, northern cardinal, brown thrasher, blue jay, or house sparrow nest, but almost invariably the nests of those species include aluminum foil, cellophane, or a similar material; like tinsel.
Perhaps if snake skins were as plentiful as human trash, those species would opt for the natural ingredient. I'm pretty sure that vanity has nothing to do with it either, but if it does, that catbird is the envy of every other bird nesting in that neighborhood.