We normally think of sunny spring as the time when birds start laying eggs and hatching chicks, flowers start to bloom in vibrant shades, and baby bunnies are popping up left right and centre, but some animals like to get ahead of schedule. RSPB Scotland's Molly Martin highlights some early nesting birds, who might already have baby fever.
5 early nesters
There are three species of crossbills found in Scotland. One, the Scottish crossbill, is the UK’s only endemic bird, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. They are also some of our earliest breeding birds, nesting in pine trees from around February! This is so that when their chicks hatch there is a good crop of pine cones to feed them.
Young tawny owls start looking for and defending their territory in autumn, and established pairs will then keep that territory all year round. The earliest nesting pairs lay their first egg in February, although most pairs don’t lay until March. There will be 2 or 3 eggs per pair, but each will be laid at a different time, meaning the chicks will be different ages, increasing the chance of at least some of them surviving if not enough prey is available.
Grey herons nest at sites called heronries, gathering in groups of up to 40 pairs to make precarious nests at the tops of trees. Herons will often return to the same nest year after year, and start their repairs in February. Three or four eggs will be laid between February and March, and these will be incubated for about a month. Once the chicks hatch, they stay in the nest for a further 8 weeks! So although they are some of the earliest nesters, the chicks wont fledge until much later than most other bird babies of the year.
Through the winter long-tailed tits huddle together in groups of between 6-50 (!) to keep warm at night. Come spring, these groups split up into their breeding pairs, and start work on magnificent nests. Each pair starts to construct a cosy oval-shaped ball of a nest in February, knitting together moss, hair, feathers and cobwebs. It can take over three weeks to build and will be left empty once completed for a few days, before the pair lay up to 8 eggs within the snug hideaway.
These glistening, black birds can be found mainly in the west of Scotland, and are impressively huge! Ravens mate for life, so don’t have to faff around at the beginning of spring looking for a mate, meaning they can get on with nest building from around February. Gathering twigs and moss they construct large cup shape nests at the tops of trees, along cliff ledges or on mountain faces. The female will lay eggs and incubate them for about 3 weeks.
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