Altamira Architects

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RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas — When it comes to nest building, Altamira orioles usually construct architectural masterpieces, but as Richard Moore shows us, sometimes the structure is barely inhabitable.

Nothing says South Texas quite like blooming ebony trees and swaying Altamira oriole nests.

Wreathed in creamy white flowers, the beautifully woven hanging basket of a nest gently rocks in the Gulf breeze.

The flowery scenic is brief however; as within a few days the ephemeral blooms have faded as the orioles begin feeding their recently hatched young.

Although Altamira orioles are always careful to construct their nest on the northwest side of trees, the sturdy nest often bucks wildly in prevailing southerly gusts.

While this nest in the towering ebony is a carefully crafted work of art, a few miles away in a desiccated ash tree hangs a pitiful wreck that appears on the verge of total collapse.

The nest is barely attached to a spindly branch by a few strands of dried grass, and it is torn asunder halfway down.  Rather than enter from the top as they would normally, the adults land on the dangling tear, which provides entry to the pouch where the young reside.

Despite the dilapidated condition, the nest is active, and both parents are busily delivering insects to their young.

The orioles seem to realize that their home is not going to win any avian architectural awards, and they frequently check the deteriorating construction for needed repairs.

The female is the chief architect and perhaps this is her first attempt at nest building. Next go round, she will hopefully build a sturdier structure.

The good news is that the youngsters are starting to appear at the entryway and are probably within a day or so of fledging.

If the suspect structure can somehow hold up for another day or two the young will escape before the disintegrating nest topples to the ground.

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