Spring is a wonderful time for kids to learn about wildlife—warmer days, a gentle sun, and new growth make outdoor exploration so inviting. As Willa and the WellieWishers™ learn in The Riddle of the Robin, spring is also an important time for animals to nest. As you venture out for a family hike or explore your own yard or local park with your girl, be aware of nesting and baby animals and remember to follow one important rule: respect their space and leave no trace.

NESTING ANIMAL FUN FACTS

What do you call a squirrel’s nest? Where do freshwater turtles lay their eggs? Here are a few neat things to know about your wild neighbors:

NIFTY NEST NAMES
NIFTY NEST NAMES
  • A badger’s home is called a sett.
  • A bat comes home to a roost.
  • Coyotes create dens for whelping.
  • An eagle’s nest is called an aerie (or eyrie).
  • Baby beavers belong in a lodge.
  • A squirrel’s nest is called a drey, unless it’s made in the cavity of a tree—then it’s called a den!
Wellie Watching
HAPPENED UPON HABITATS

Some animals nest in ways that are far less conspicuous, so it’s good to explore with extra care in the springtime to avoid disturbing these less-obvious nests:

  • Deer often bed their fawns in tall grasses, and they keep the area impeccably clean: mothers even consume the fawn’s waste so that predators won’t be drawn to their scent. So if you come upon a secluded, flattened area in the grass, even if there is no scent or telltale animal droppings, it may be an area where a fawn has recently bedded.
  • Rabbits are also very good at disguising their nests, and they are often hidden in plain sight under a tangle of brush, a thicket of ground cover, or even right in the middle of a yard or field. Look closely at areas that look like nothing more than dead grass or disturbed vegetation, and use caution: there just may be baby bunnies snuggled underneath.
  • Freshwater turtles also keep inconspicuous nests. In the spring, they look for a warm spot away from the water, often with sandy soil or fine gravel, and bury their eggs in a nest. Turtles do not sit on their nests; their habit is to lay and leave. So watch your step when hiking and walking, and take extra care to look for tiny turtle hatchlings as they wander out and head for water.
PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB

Spring babies are indescribably sweet, but teach your girl how important it is to leave them alone. Observe them from a distance and do not dismantle or disturb their nesting areas.

WHAT ABOUT ANIMAL RESCUES?

While it is true that animals can be injured or orphaned, especially in the spring, many species have developed learning and rearing habits that may seem surprising. Too often, a well-intentioned person may unintentionally cause harm to a wild animal while trying to help. But some animal parents do leave their babies unattended for periods of time, and fledglings may struggle on the ground for a day or more as they learn how to fly. Unless an animal is in obvious distress or imminent danger, it is best to trust their instincts—and that can be especially hard for little ones who only want to help. You can show your girl a better way to help by urging patience and learning. So before you intervene:

Bird
  • Look for any obvious signs of injury.
  • Observe the animal’s behavior over time.
  • Research the animal—is what you’re seeing normal for that animal?
  • Don’t act alone: if you are still concerned for an animal’s safety, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area.

Inspired by WellieWishers™: The Riddle of the Robin, by Valerie Tripp. ©2018 American Girl.