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Bird Watch: A complex, elevated, pendulous nest

Update: This entry was started on April 4 and completed on May 17. In May we noticed that the nest had been destroyed.

A few months ago, we spied a complex, elevated nest in a front yard tree growing adjacent to the sidewalk. It is not cupped like the hummingbird nest, rather, it is pendulous.

So, which species of bird constructed this nest?

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology via its Nest Watch website provides clues to identify birds' nests based on including region, habitat, height above the ground, size, and nest material, but recommends a field guide to birds’ nests, too. Without such a guide on my bookshelves, I continued searching the web. Unfortunately, the search did not yield any i.d. clues, then.

Next, I did what I should have done from the start. I searched the catalogue of my local library for birds' nests i.d. books. I found "A Field Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds" by Hal H. Harrison. However, for various reasons (general busyness), I have not borrowed the book from the library. I searched the internet once again and came across "Birds' Nests: An Introduction to the Science of Caliology" by Charles Dixon (1902). Dixon wrote that the Penduline titmouse builds pendulous nests. The local titmouse is the Oak titmouse:

4-5", year-round, grayish body, jaunty crest, light gray throat and underparts (Local Birds of Northern California Backyards & Trail Birds).

It is possible that the nest was built by a Wilson's warbler (4-5"; spring, summer, fall resident; olive above, bright yellow below; yellow face with black cap; longish tail) or a Bullock's oriole (7-8"; spring, summer resident; orange and yellow; black crown, eye line and throat; large white wing patch on dark gray wings).

Do you know?


  1. I just found a pendulous nest, like your picture, in my backyard on the ground. Inside the nest is one cracked egg and one unhatched egg. Both are white. The solid egg is a little less than one half of a dime. The nest is built of pine needles, twigs, feathers, hair and lent. I think this confirms what you said. It is a Titmouse.

  2. AnonymousMay 13, 2010

    Amazing.. I was trying to identify a nest fell by a strong breeze from our oak tree.. and it looks just like your picture, made of string, lint, and is about a foot tall.. the oak titmouse

  3. AnonymousJune 15, 2010

    Cool, I feel relieved I did not listen to someone trying to say it was some kind of wasp nest. Hah! I just saw a bird leave it. Could not id but was smallish (4"?) and grey/dark. The nest is hanging from the Arbutus Marina in my back yard in Berkeley.

  4. I have a similar nest in the bamboo on my porch in Los Gatos, CA,. The bird looking the closest seemed to be a flycatcher but the nest was smaller. I'll check the oak titmouse too.

  5. local ecologistApril 16, 2013

    Anonymous 4/16, let us know what you find.
    To everyone else, thanks for your bird tales!

  6. I have one of these hanging in my passion flower vine. They are called bush tits. Mine is grey and the nest is hanging down and swinging in the wind. I live in southern California. Sweetest little thing I ever saw.

  7. local ecologistMay 10, 2013

    Pandora, I appreciate your contribution to this discussion.

    A google search supports your id. 10,000 Birds has a wonderful post about bushtit nest building including a video (see

  8. I live in San Jose, CA, and have one in my grapefruit tree!! Thank you!

  9. I have three hummingbirds nest in the tree by my apartment and the landlord wants to cut down the tree byt humming birds are endangered here wat do i do?

    1. local ecologistApril 13, 2020

      Sorry to see your question so late, "unknown"! I hope the tree was not cut down. If this issue arises again, contact your municipal tree department and/or your local Audubon chapter.

  10. Have a slo-mo video of bird going in and out of its pendulous nest in a heavenly bamboo plant. Not sir how to share the video and get input on bird species.


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