Thursday, February 24, 2011

An Interesting Ash-throated Flycatcher Nest.

The nest shown here is reported by Lori Markoff as that of a Ash-throated Flycatcher, which was constructed in an artificial plastic Purple Martin gourd on her property ~13 miles south of Rock Springs, Edwards County, Texas in 2010.
When Lori was cleaning the gourds for the this season, 2011, she recovered the nest which she graciously sent to me for a look see and then transfer to Dr. Kieth Arnold and the Texas co-operative Wildlife collection at Texas A&M in college Station.

Though somewhat in disarray and jostled during shipment this nest still is of interest in that it is constructed entirely of hair with numerous snail shells inserted by the flycatchers...The wood chips were not brought in by the birds and can probably be picked out. The placement of  conifer (pine or fir) chips into martin housing is a very common and even encouraged practice by colony landlords in part to make the nest gourds more attractive to potential nesters and also as a substrate on the bottom for warmth for those very early early scouts during very cold weather.
I made no effort to remove them.

The animal fur is primarily that of deer, and opossum, the later likely a nearby carcass given many of the hairs are clumped with dried skin fragments attached at the base. The remainder of the identifiable hair appears to be of dog/coyote, cattle, feral hog and
perhaps rabbit and/or other unidentifiables  at least for me.

There are the various dried dropping left by perhaps pre-fledged juv.s or later roosting birds...Perhaps the nest was used as a roost cavity later in the species
. What is odd is the number of upland snail shells that were mixed into the dense hair nest structure as shown here in part.

These were obviously long emptied and bleached shells, many broken, and it is a big mystery to me as to why these shells were used unless they are somehow related to the mating/mate attraction process.

I have in the past tried to extract a complete nest thru the "nest hole" of this species with no good success. This is the first ATFL nest I have ever seen that was built entirely of animal fur (no feathers even). All previous nests contained vegetation, feathers, even portions of reptile skins, albeit with a large portion of hair as well.

I should know the snail species but can not keep those names in my memory
and do know know that it is a significant matter anyway. Thanks again to Lori for providing me/us with a very interesting insight into Ash-throated biology.
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