Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher nest at Tucson Audubon's Mason Center

A Pima College class visited the Mason Center on this week. On tours of the Mason Center we often show people the sustainability features of the buildings and gardens, and then take them around the short inner-loop trail. We talk about the key role of saguaros in the ecosystem--providing homes for many birds. And we talk about the "nurse" role of many of the trees on the property, creating a microclimate where saguaros grow more easily. We point out many plants and their roles for wildlife. Among them we point out desert mistletoe, which also has been proposed as a keystone species.
We tell them that desert mistletoe berries are important to a variety of birds, like Phainopeplas. And that Phainopeplas--and other birds--sometimes nest in the dense clump that mistletoe often provides. 
On this occasion, arriving at desert hackberry, we explained how great that plant is for wildlife. Nearby, there was a small clump of mistletoe growing in an acacia. We notices there was indeed a very small nest inside this clump. Almost small enough to be a hummingbird nest. 
And then we saw the unmistakable tail and head of a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher sticking up over the rim of the nest. We had seen them foraging nearby a couple weeks before. 
It was almost impossible to get a good photo because the nest is so well concealed in the mistletoe. But after trying a variety of angles we finally got some decent shots. In the photos below we zoom in from the mistletoe, located in a whitethorn acacia, to a closeup of the bird in the nest (below). We hope you enjoy this little piece of nature from Tucson Audubon's Mason Center!

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