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Return of the Funky Nests!

2015 April 6
by Braulio Castillo and Laura Pineda-Bermudez

Yup, you heard us right! We are beginning our annual “Funky Nests in Funky Places” contest once again on April 1st. In case you have missed this contest in previous years and are wondering what this means, it is exactly what it sounds like. Funky nests are everywhere and we want you to find them! You may not have noticed them before, but the next time you go outside, take a walk try to look for funky-looking bird nests. You might not expect it, but they can be found in the most bizarre of locations. They could be anywhere from barbecue grills and stop lights, to clotheslines and even car tires!

Once you have found your funky nest you might be interested to discover that they are even funkier when you realize what they are made of. Hummingbird nests, for example, are made of a silky substance that is actually mostly spider web. Just try to find the funkiest nest you can and enter it to our challenge at our website! Remember to be creative! You can submit photos, videos, artwork, poems, songs, or stories.

Are there any restrictions, you ask? Here’s what you should know about the contest:

  • People of all ages can participate!
  • You can send in photos from anywhere in the world!
  • The city, the suburbs, and rural locations are all open for your search!
  • You don’t need to know anything about birds!

It is also necessary to keep several guidelines in mind in order to avoid harming these birds. It is recommended to keep visits short (about 1 minute!) and in the afternoon (after morning but before dusk). Remember to check these nests in good weather and to approach them only after the first days of incubation but before fledging. Most importantly remember not to touch the nests or the eggs, minimizing all possible disturbance.

Don’t get intimidated and just go out to have a fun walk! Even if you don’t find any nests, you will engage your city and your environment! Your nest-finding expedition may even lead you to learn things you never knew about the place you call home!

To get inspired, the following gallery has submissions from previous years. Do any places surprise or motivate you? Start searching now!

It’s Dinner Time!

2015 March 2
by Braulio Castillo

Food! Eating! Taste! Cuisine! All of these aspects of your daily feeding habits obviously vary from person to person. While some people like spicy food, others like the sweet stuff. The texture of meat might be pleasing to some, while a nice juicy fruit is a whole lot more appetizing to others. If such variations in taste exist between the cuisines of a single species (us humans) then one can only begin to imagine the variety in alimentary habits that exists between different species.


A Great Blue Heron awaiting by the marsh, Photo courtesy of Barry Wallace, ON, CANADA

Flight style, beak shape, hunting technique, and food storage all vary from bird species to bird species. Birds such as the albatross that need to cover large areas while using as little energy as possible, developed a wing shape that allows them to glide on minimal air currents. To open hard seeds some birds developed thick strong beaks, while other birds developed thinner, finer beaks in order to open mostly smaller, softer seeds.  Hunting techniques vary as demonstrated by egrets and herons that slowly and silently stalk their prey in marshes until they quickly jab at their victims. Other birds’ pursuit of different prey can lead to capture on a tree, the ground, or even mid-flight!


An American Robin feeding its young, Photo courtesy of Mike Conley, MO

A fascinating example of interesting eating habits and customs is one of our focal species, the American Robin. This infinitesimally interesting bird eats different foods depending on the time of the day; earthworms being its morning food, and fruit being its evening nourishment. The fruit is actually a huge staple of its diet in the fall and winter, even becoming intoxicated if it happens to exclusively eat honeysuckle berries. The American Robin will also use its crop (its expandable esophagus), in order to store fruit on a cold winter night.  Interestingly, other birds have developed additional techniques such as carrying small prey in pouches under the tongue or in the throat. The fascinating American Robin becomes even “curiouser and curiouser” as one individual Robin has even been observed to defend a fruiting crabapple tree against fifteen Cedar Waxwings (which happens to be another of our focal species)!

To learn more about how to plant and take care of these plants in containers in order to feed birds and make your neighborhood a prettier place, visit our page by clicking here.


An American Robin hanging out on a berry tree, Photo courtesy of Cynthia Brandenburg, IL

A nurturing environment & safe haven with Casa del Tunel, Tijuana

2014 December 15
by Laura Pineda-Bermudez

Courtesy of Casa del Tunel

A fantastic program was hosted by Casa del Tunel in Tijuana, Mexico in August. There was also a wonderful program with Casa del Tunel’s sister organization, WorldBeat Cultural Center happening simultaneously. This is the second year there is a bi-national  program within the two organizations with a very similar curriculum. What better way to learn about nature than by being outside? Kids of all ages spent time outdoors interacting with group leaders in fun and engaging hands-on activities.



Courtesy of Casa del Tunel

In Casa del Tunel, there was a a strong focus on introducing local and cultural traditions through fun and enriching activities. Most of the children and adults participating are from El Cañon de Los Laureles in Tijuana, a neighborhood that faces ecological and economic challenges. They are exposed to violent environments with little connection to nature. This summer camp served to open their eyes and educate the kids on the importance and beauty of the natural environment around them. The children also explored dance and yoga while also learning healthy eating habits. During the lunch breaks, the kids were able to eat food that had been grown directly from their very own class garden. Overall, this summer camp was an enriching experience for both the children participating and all members the surrounding community who were involved.



Courtesy of Casa del Tunel

Courtesy of Casa del Tunel

During the program, the children were able to help out in Tijuana’s International Peace Garden. With so little places for birds in the city local and urban birds have come to visit the garden. The locals, many of which have never been so close and connected to nature, have been immensely moved by the transformation. Also, the excitement in the community has been unreal. Local birds are not the only inhabitants to the garden! Many migratory bird and butterfly species have become frequent fliers in the area. Some Funky Nests have even been spotted within the garden!!




If you want to learn more about Casa del Tunel’s events and activities, please visit the Facebook page here.

For more pictures on Casa del Tunel’s  summer adventures, check out the photo gallery below!