Winter Botany Study, Part 7: Mystery Nest

While we continue to get much needed moisture (snow) on our mountain, we continue to enjoy hiking the dry foothills of Albuquerque’s Open Spaces. The 2,000 foot drop in elevation is nudging spring along faster down there too. Already wormwood and globe mallow are sending up leaves from their perennial roots. While bending over to admire these soft fuzzy new leaves unfolding beneath the smooth sumac grove, I noticed that just inches away from my ear what appeared to be an old paper wasp nest! eeeeeeyikes! I hope no one saw me leap about 5 feet sideways!

After my heart slowed a bit, and with an audible sigh of relief at not being swarmed by angry wasps, I realized I had ”leapt” to a mistaken conclusion. Not a wasp nest at all, but a beautifully woven bird’s nest tucked securely in the fork of several sumac branches.

But what bird built this nest?

I do love a good nature mystery.
Obviously this little nest was built last year by a small bird. She chose an ideal location to raise her clutch of chicks, as the nest would’ve been well camouflaged under the cover of sumac leaves. So armed with as many details as I could gather (inside/outside nest dimensions, materials used, height from the ground, site description and photos) I began researching various sources to narrow down species possibilities.

So many clues were revealed while closely observing and sketching the nest that I ended up with several possible species to consider and a bunch more questions to ponder. But based on location, nest characteristics, and hundreds of observations submitted to the eBird database, I thinking there’s a strong likelihood this nest was built by a lesser goldfinch……… I will continue to investigate, because ……

I’d love to know for sure! For sure I’ll be keeping an eye on this sumac grove this spring and summer, not only to report on sumac phenology, but to see if a bird builds a nest like this one and solves this mystery.

But if you have a clue to share, please do!

Nest side view
Looking down into nest cup


  1. goodlifecp says:

    The architectural work by the nest builder is beautiful! I noticed a real small nest nestled in one of the neighborhood trees. I’m guessing with the number of finches in the area, it likely belongs to that species.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Still haven’t figured out what bird species built this nest, but at least once a week we hike by hoping to catch a glimpse!

      Liked by 1 person

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