Friday, May 26, 2017 Fox Sparrow nest and eggs

Seward, Alaska

Rain, hail, sun, strong and chilly south wind, calm, showers, sun, hard rain, etc. The temperature sank to 32º overnight, rose to 47º by midday, then dropped again towards evening. The forecast even mentions snow tonight! What a blender buzz of crazy weather ingredients!

This afternoon between squalls, the neighbor boys came over to show me a bird nest. It was located about 2 ½ feet above the ground in a dense ornamental Arborvitae of some sort. A generous layer of dried grasses, mosses, plant stalks, and twigs surrounded the perfectly round and deep cup in the middle. Four dark eggs lay nestled against what may be hair from their Australian shepherd.

Some other boys had apparently handled the eggs then put dandelion leaves and flowers on the eggs, perhaps in an attempt to keep them warm. I removed the unnecessary greenery in hopes the mom would return.

At first glance, the eggs looked like chocolate candies. I picked one up to make sure there were no further shenanigans and quickly put it back like a hot potato. Yikes! It WAS an egg! A closer look later at my photos showed the base color was greenish with heavy chocolate-brown mottling.

I suspected a FOX SPARROW, due to the small size of the nest plus a male has been singing in the Dinosaur Chorus nearby, and they are common here.

My excellent reference book, “A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds” by Paul Baicich and Colin Harrison, showed a photo of very similar-looking eggs, though I could be mistaken.

The text notes that the female builds the nest in only 2 to 3 days, and typically lays 3-5 eggs. The incubation lasts 12-14 days, starting with the first egg. The babies are fed by both parents until they fledge in 9-11 days. Under favorable conditions, the parents may raise a second family.

Given the unfortunate location, easy discovery, cold and wet weather, and unfortunate mishandling of the eggs, I doubt that these eggs will hatch. The boys now know to leave this nest and any other nests, alone. I hope the parents will try again, in a less accessible location.

Despite the sad circumstances and lesson in stewardship, we all learned a bit more about our feathered neighbors, their beautiful home, and extraordinary eggs.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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