For all sorts of Maine birds, nesting can be dramatic and fraught

In  our last dramatic episode, you may remember that the eastern phoebes nesting above my garage door were forced to raise a cowbird chick. In the end, the cowbird and two phoebe chicks disappeared mysteriously, and the phoebes managed to raise the two remaining offspring successfully, despite the odds.

Also, they hated me.

The phoebe parents found my curiosity to be a nuisance, and they sounded the alarm whenever I was near. I thought that was the end of it.

I was wrong.

Two weeks after the curtain came down on Act One, the phoebes returned and started another brood in the same nest. As of this Monday, all four eggs had hatched, this time without a cowbird. Also, I was apparently forgiven, because they’ve stopped chirping at me whenever I’m in the driveway, at least for the present.

They now deem me unworthy of their attention.

Raising two broods is not rare. In general, smaller birds need more babies to replenish the population. The life expectancy of warbler-sized birds is only about two to five years. Mortality is high among first-year birds who may be less savvy about predators. Furthermore, all songbirds face new threats in the modern era. Outdoor cats kill over two billion birds a year in the U.S. and Canada — about four times the estimated rate of those killed by collisions with tall objects, such as towers, skyscrapers and wind turbines.

Small, non-migratory birds such as titmice, chickadees and nuthatches can get by with…

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