Picture a nest in your mind. Is it in a tree or a bush? Is it made from twigs and leaves? Those are the thoughts that generally spring to mind but in many cases, they are not true at all. Did you know that a lot of bird species do not nest in trees, or even build what you might consider a conventional nest? Nesting season is quickly getting underway at Pagham Harbour and Medmerry, so we are breaking down the nesting behaviour of some species you can find here, along with how you can help us keep them safe,
Grey partridge (Perdix perdix)
Grey partridges tend to nest on farmland. This could be in or around crops, grass margins, beetle banks, nettle beds or along the bottoms of hedges. The females make a scrape in the ground with grass around the edge and will stay on this patch for between 38 and 55 days. They are especially vulnerable to predation and or nest flooding during this time. Nests seem to be most successful when they are on banks with good drainage and away from lots of trees, where birds of prey, crows or magpies could see them. Did you know grey partridge clutches are larger than any other bird species? Those in Britain generally lay between 14 and 15 eggs, but those in Finland have been found to lay up to 19!
Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Shelducks make use of disused burrows, large holes in trees or sometimes even haystacks. One brood of between 8 and 10 eggs are laid per year. They group the young together in a nursey area very soon after hatching to form a creche which is supervised by one or more adults. A creche is usually made up of between 20 and 40 ducklings, however there was once a record of nearly 200 ducklings in a creche in East Anglia!
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
These ducks create nests on the ground out of grass, leaves and the mother’s downy feathers. Like the shelduck, they lay one clutch per year, however with slightly more eggs (11-14). The mother mallard will incubate her eggs for 23 hours per day for 27 to 28 days and the young are able to walk and feed almost immediately after hatching.
Reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Warblers nest in a variety of vegetation, from trees, to bushes, to tall grass, to reeds. In the case of reed warblers, the clue is in the name! These birds work at building their nest for over a week, weaving reed leaves and fronds between several reed stems to form a nest, and filling it with reed flowers. Between 3 and 5 eggs are laid and the males and females share the responsibility of raising the chicks. Spots on the chicks’ tongues are thought to help the parents find their mouths while feeding them. Did you know reed warblers are prime targets for cuckoos? Cuckoos are brood parasites, laying their eggs in reed warbler nests while the parents are not there. The reed warblers are tricked into incubating the eggs and looking after the young cuckoos as if they are their own chicks.
Stay tuned for more ingenious nesters soon!
Thank you to the RSPB, BTO, WWT, the Little Tern Project, The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, The Cheshire and Wirral Bird Atlas and the Wildlife Trusts for providing the information used in this blog series.
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