Web Extra: Flights of Fancy, Winter Birds
Texas Highways presents photographer-naturalist E. Dan Klepper’s images of winter birds in the December 2010 issue. Following are details on the nesting habits of the winged wonders, and some fun facts on the Rio Grande Valley viewing spots Klepper includes in the story.
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This emerald-green hummer likes to nest low, around five feet off the ground, and build nests that straddle droopy limbs or forks where they typically lay two tiny, white eggs.
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher likes forests and scrubland and prefers building nests along the edge of limbs, away from the trunk. The nest is cup-shaped and constructed from spider webs or caterpillar silk and covered with bits of bark and lichen. The bird uses different soft fibers like feathers or hair to line the nest and will lay up to a half-dozen pale blue eggs with tiny dark dots.
Cardinals prefer to build nests in a dense tangle of foliage anywhere up to 15 feet above the ground. Nest site selection and material gathering appear to be cooperative activities between mates but the female typically does the actual building. The nest layers are comprised of twigs, leaves, and fine bark outside and grass and pine needles inside. The female will lay up to five eggs in variations of dirty gray, buff, or pale greenish with speckles of dull gray or brown.
The Orange-crowned Warbler species is actually divided into four subspecies, each with a slightly different color, length, molting pattern, and location. Texans will be most familiar with the subspecies they see in transit, usually later in the migratory season, from its boreal-nesting and breeding site in Canada. The Orange-crowned prefers thickets in winter, particularly the dense tangle of native thornscrub in South Texas. The bird is one of the most common wintering warblers in the state.
RGV Fun Facts
From the June 2012 issue.