With migration all but over and done with, birds here on Ship Island have begun the second phase of their summer cycle: nesting! We found our first Common Tern nests on May 27, and now have over 100 nests. Both parents take “terns” incubating the eggs, and the male often reinforces their pair bond by bringing his female fresh fish. They work together to choose a nest site, then begin scraping the ground with their feet to form a shallow bowl that they will later decorate with twigs and shells.
The other birds here on the island have begun nesting as well, and today we found 2 Savannah Sparrow nests and 2 or 3 Spotted Sandpiper nests. Savannah Sparrows typically make their nests on the interior of the island, forming a bowl of protective dried grasses in the fields.
Spotted Sandpipers, on the other hand, make nests near the water’s edge. These sandpipers, and others, differ from song birds like sparrows in that it is the female, not the male, who sets up and defends a territory. She and potential mates choose a nest site together, form a shallow bowl rimmed with grasses, then once the eggs are laid, the female leaves it up to the male to incubate. Females may have multiple partners or they may choose just one.
Though we haven’t found their nests yet, we know that Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, and Song Sparrows are also nesting here. Until next time,