Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites
Spring 2012           

Dear Junior Ranger,
Our Growing Up Wild series continues - in this issue you will learn about wildlife in Georgia that grow up in a nest.  That includes the Cool Critter pictured in the last issue of The Georgia Junior Ranger - the American alligator.  Animal nests are often tucked away in hidden places or camouflaged to provide a safe place for eggs to develop. They are typically guarded by the animal parent. 
Finding a nest is always exciting and  watching the young grow up is especially rewarding.  Keep an eye out for nests in your neighborhood!
Cindy Reittinger
Chief Naturalist, Georgia State Parks
Also in this Issue:
* Cool Critter Contest
* Ask the Naturalist
* Test Your Nest IQ
* Read More About It
* Wow!

* Outdoor Fun
Cool Critter

Can you identify this cool Georgia critter?
Correctly identify this animal by April 20th and be entered to win a free Park Pass - good for free admission to all Georgia State Parks for a whole year!  Email your answer to the Chief Naturalist.

Ask the Naturalist
Have a question about nature?  Junior Rangers can submit their questions to the Chief Naturalist.

Dear Chief Naturalist,
My brother and I found a bird nest in our backyard.  My mom said that the baby birds have already grown up and are gone.  We wondered how the nest stayed so clean.  Where did the baby birds go to the bathroom?

                         Macon, Georgia

Dear Susie,
That is a great question!  The waste from a baby songbird comes out  packaged in a small clear sac called a fecal sac.  The parent either eats the fecal sac or carries it far from the nest.  They don't just drop it over the side of the nest because that would alert predators that there is a nest nearby. 
How lucky for you to find a bird nest right in your own backyard!

Wow - Nice Photo!

Junior Ranger, Olivia Rae Tomisek from Lafayette, Georgia sent me this beautiful photo of  a dwarf crested iris that she saw on recent hike at Cloudland Canyon State Park. 
Read & Learn More

Visit your local library and check out these titles:

Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them by Sharon Beals
*  Avian Architecture by Peter Goodfellow
* Egg and Nest by Rosamund Purcell
* Squirrels and their Nests by Martha E H Rustad
* A Guide to the Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds by Paul Baicich

Hiking is Healthy
Georgia State Parks has designated one trail at each park as a Tons of Fun trail.  Hiking is just one way to have fun and get fit in the outdoors!


Photo credits:
Masthead: Linda Patrick
Barn swallow nestlings: Getty Images
Bald eagle: Reed Bingham State Park
Cool Critter: Giff Beaton
Sea turtles: Georgia DNR
Glider and cranes: Operation Migration

State Parks Logo
Growing Up in a Nest

Many of Georgia's wild creatures begin life in a nest - birds, alligators, squirrels, sea turtles and wasps.  Can you think of any other animals?

Bird Nests
Perhaps the most amazing thing
about bird nests is that they are built without
hands - just beaks and feet!

The nest of these young barn swallows is made of mud, but other birds may use grass, twigs, pine needles, strips of bark or other found materials.  Nests have been found that were made in part with colored yarn, candy wrappers, shoe laces, cigarette filters, kleenex and even a five dollar bill!

New Bald Eagle Nest!
Georgia State Parks is now home to two bald eagle nests!  A pair of eagles have been nesting at Reed Bingham State Park since 2005.  This year another nesting pair was discovered at Hard Labor Creek State Park.
Bald eagles hold the record for building the largest bird nests in North America.  They may use the same nest for many years, adding to it every year.  A nest found in Florida was 20 feet deep!
Things to Do:
* Check out these bird cams - cameras mounted over active bird nests.  They're fun to watch and they're live!     
               Great Blue Heron Cam
               Red-tailed Hawk Cam
               Eagle Cam
* Carolina Wrens are a common backyard bird in Georgia and they sometimes make their nests in funny places.  Learn more about these curious birds and see some of their unusual nest locations. 
* Put up a nesting box for birds in your backyard.  Learn how.

Test Your Nest IQ

What Georgia bird uses lichen & spider webs to make their nest?
     a.  Brown Pelican
     b.  Ruby-throated Hummingbird
     c.  American Robin
     d. Turkey Vulture
     e.  Eastern Bluebird

What Georgia bird lays its' eggs in the nest of other birds?
    a. Carolina Chickadee
    b. Wood Duck
    c. Brown-headed Cowbird
    d. Brown Thrasher
    e. Wood Stork

How does nest temperature effect Georgia's baby alligators?
    a.  It determines their eye color
    b.  It determines their tail length
    c.  It determines their stomach size
    d.  It determines if they will be male or female
    e.  It determines the thickness of their hide

Answers: 1b, 2c, 3d
Nests Made of Paper
Hornets, yellow jackets and paper wasps use their mouth to scrape wood fibers from worn and weathered wooden buildings, fences, telephone poles and other dead wood sources.  They chew it up and mix it with their saliva to make their paper nests.
Sea Turtles Nest on the Beach
Georgia's most common nesting sea turtle is the loggerhead.  The female loggerheads come ashore late April-early September to dig their sandy nests and lay 80-100 leathery eggs.  When the eggs hatch two months later the young turtles must make their own way across the beach and out to sea.
Things to Do:
* Take a walk in your neighborhood and look for nests.  Send me a photo of any nest you find and I will send you a prize.  Email your photos to: Chief Naturalist
* Learn more about animals that build nests and play animal nest word games.
* Bake a Hornet's Nest Cake.
* Learn more about wasp nests.
Outdoor Fun

Try Camping!
If you've never camped in a tent and you want to try - here's your chance! Tell your parents about Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites new First Time Camper program.  We loan you the camping gear and help you get started. 

Georgia Mountain BirdFest, May 3-6

Unicoi State Park's second annual BirdFest offers field trips and classes for birdwatchers of all ages - beginners to experts.  Glider pilot, Joe Duff will be there to talk about how he trains young whooping cranes to migrate.

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