Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Why Tractors Catch Fire

Continuing with trying to catch up the blog from last year, we bring you a cautionary tale about expecting the unexpected. 

European starlings can easily reach plague proportions on a farm.  They are precocious and prolific breeders and can produce multiple clutches per year.  They eat anything they can get their beaks on, they aren't shy around people or activity and they are cavity nesters so their chicks are more protected from predators and environment then other birds.  Populations build quickly.  And the more numerous they are the more creative they become in finding nesting sites.  We've had them plug chimneys, grain elevators, downspouts, the eaves of buildings, the elevators of corn pickers and the horns of forage choppers with nesting material.

Last summer Andy climbed on one of the tractors to start it and nearly had a heart attack when a starling flew into his face from a narrow gap next to the throttle lever on the dashboard.  The tractor had been idle for a few days....

Removing the hood over the engine revealed what the bird had been up to - nest building way up toward the nose of the tractor.

In just a few days the starling had investigated and found the spot acceptable despite the smell of diesel and oil and metal, dragged all the material in for the nest and laid a clutch of eggs.  Thankfully they had not hatched so we weren't faced with a quandary of what to do with live chicks.

Quite the feat - the gap it entered is just to the left of the levers with knobs and the route goes behind the dials, then up and along the length of the tractor, under the metal arch that holds the hood rigid and to a void.  How many trips did it take to fill the space with enough material to make the nest?

Andy was in up to his elbow clearing it and took a good peck basket of dry grass and twigs out of the gap.  You could hardly ask for more combustible material.

Disaster averted, thankfully.  I wonder if the insurance agents have heard 'fire from bird nest' before?


  1. Oh my Robin! Sure is a story of survival of the.....cleverest!

  2. We used to have ground squirrels that would nest in the air cleaner of the truck. You knew they were there because the truck wouldn't start, the air cleaner case being filled with grass to the point of choking and flooding the engine. 'Got to the point where we just didn't start the thing without clearing out the air cleaner first. This afforded the squirrels enough notice to escape. We forgot to do that one time and the squirrels tried to evacuate after the engine started. It made a hell of a mess!

  3. We have no idea of the challenges our farmers face! That nest really was an incredible feat.

    Looking forward to thoughts of shearing time.