Spring is a time when many people put their houses up for sale and begin to look for a different home. Many creatures are also seeking out the perfect location to build their homes and start a family. On my daily walks in the neighborhood, I’ve noticed a couple “for sale signs” by human houses and I’ve watched some of my more “wild” neighbors do some house hunting themselves.
Now that the ground is thawed, many robins have moved to the neighborhood. The males are territorial of their areas and will put up a fight if another crosses the invisible boundary. Sometimes these tussles carry on for a couple of minutes and can end with a few downy feathers floating in the air. Like many species, the female robin chooses her mate and the nesting location within his territory. Females favor more experienced males with the best singing voices. They usually have the best real estate and thus increase the likelihood that their offspring will succeed.
A few pairs of cardinals also live in the area. I’ve watched one male lay on the romance by occasionally feeding the female. Perhaps this demonstrates his ability to be a good provider once she is incubating the eggs. They call back and forth as the female assesses potential nesting sites, the male tagging along. She will shop around before making the final decision on a nest site, typically a fork in a young tree or shrub that is hidden from view by leaves.
Rabbits also live here, but I haven’t noticed them doing much house-hunting. I do usually find a nest in my yard at some point during the early summer. The female makes a nest in a depression in the grass that she lines with fur from her chest. It’s not a fancy home, but the young are well-camouflaged.
I think we may have new neighbors on the block. They are a bit noisy and some of the other residents seem alarmed by their presence. A pair of merlins have been investigating the spruce and pine trees in the area. Merlins are feisty falcons and powerful fliers. I’ve watched them swoop into evergreen trees, then noisily call to each other. A couple of minutes later, one will hurriedly fly off to another tree and call to the other. I think they may be house-hunting and the real estate in my area is probably attractive to them. Merlins nest in abandoned great horned owl or crow nests that have a good view. They are in luck, because both crows and great horned owls live here and Lake Michigan is a block or two away. Once the site is selected, merlins will not do much remodeling (if any), before the female lays the eggs.
The housing market seems to be strong in my neighborhood this spring. I look forward to watching new neighbors, wild and otherwise, move in and start raising their families.
Photo from USFWS digital library