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Bird Nest Building Pictures 1999

The bird nesting box pictured below has an inbuilt infrared CCTV camera, with three infrared LEDs as illuminators, and a microphone and heater; the heater is kept on permanently to prevent the camera lens and housing from suffering from condensation.

The camera is mounted on the North wall of a house in Guildford, Surrey, England, about 40 miles southwest of the centre of London. The surrounding countryside has large expanses of common land and some woods. Birds seen in the garden here include Jays, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Collared Doves, Sparrows, Pied Wagtails, Parus Major, Aegithalos caudatus, Buntings, Parus Caeruleus, Robins, Thrushes, Magpies, Skylarks, Nuthatches, Blackbirds, Starlings, Greenfinches, Green Woodpeckers, Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, and Kestrels, Sparrowhawks and Buzzards flying overhead.

3rd April 1999.

The nesting box pictured was bought on Easter Saturday for 79 UK pounds, complete with power supply, TV and video scart lead (25 metres), camera, microphone, and an alternative front with a larger hole for different sizes of bird.

4th April 1999.

Within 24 hours, the nesting box was being investigated by the Parus caeruleus pictured in the following sequence of shots. The camera, being IR, is monochrome and the pictures were transferred to the computer by photographing the monitor screen with a Sony Mavica MVD71 digital camera. (Unfortunately the CCDTV camera output was sufficiently out of specification to upset the video capture card in the computer.)

To see full sized images please click on the thumbnails below.

Here is the outside of the nesting box. The camera is inside, under the ridge of the sloping roof, looking straight downwards. The lead is just visible; it runs down the brickwork and through a specially drilled hole to the living room inside, where there is a television monitor and video recorder, and the 12 volt power supply.


Less than 24 hours after installing the nest box, the parus caeruleus appeared and started to investigate. Here it is having a good look around. It also spread out its wings several times to measure the floor area, and had a really good move around inside the box. From later observations, we assume this first visitor is the male bird. He is larger and glossier than the female.

Bird moves in

Bird inspects

Bird measures up

The bird then left, and a minute or two later came back with the initial load of nesting material. Is this still the male? we are not sure...possibly this is the female.

Bringing first

The (male?) bird clambers up onto the inside of the entrance and inspects the camera and electronics very closely, several times over.

Inspecting the

Here is the bird entering the box with a beak-load of grass and moss.

Bird with grass and

The bird then inspects the nest as built so far (less than one hour after starting).

Nest inspection

Periodically, the bird opens its wings and tamps down the nesting material, batting them and scrabbling in circles to make a depression in the centre of the nest.

Tamping the nest

Here is the nest, sans bird, after 75 minutes from the start.

Nest after 1.25

5th April 1999.

Here is the nest 24 hours later. By this time the bird has turned its attention to stems rather than to grass and moss.

Nest after 24

Here is the bird, inspecting the nest on 5th April 1999.

Inspection on day

6th April 1999.

Now the bird starts to "feather the nest". Here is one of the first feathers to arrive. This takes considerably longer than the minute between trips that it took the bird to find grass and stems. It is now taking about 10-20 minutes to find and bring back feathers, so the nest-feathering stage takes several days.

First feathers

Here is the bird, roosting in the new nest for the first time, about 48 hours after starting to build.

Roosting at
nightfall, just over two days after starting to build.

As the nights are still cool, the bird fluffs up its back feathers and tucks its head under its wing to go to sleep. This is a very appealing sight, as live TV. Here it is on the following night, just into the fourth period of 24 hours from arrival.

8th April 1999.

Fluffed up and
asleep on the fourth night (Thursday 8th April 1999)

9th April 1999.

Feathers continue to be brought. Here is a nicely feathered nest on the morning of Friday 9th April 1999 (the building started on the evening of Easter Day, Sunday 4th April).

The nest on day

We now await further developments. Click below.

Next - - Egg laying pictures!

David Jefferies
18th August 2003