What are these spherical nest looking things on power lines in Mexico?
August 19, 2017 6:36 PM   Subscribe

I just came back from San Miguel de Allende, where I saw a lot of these round things on power/phone lines. Here is a picture in context. Are they bird nests? Which birds?

I saw mainly three different types of birds while I was there in the city: pigeons; swallow looking birds with forked tails that swooped and flew low and fast through the streets and sort of crow looking birds with much longer tails than our crows. I know pigeons didn't make these! Did the swallows? I never saw a bird going in or out of one and they were too high up for me to see them closely.
posted by mygothlaundry to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm pretty sure those are just epiphytic plants (aka "air plants"). I used to live in central america and there were all sorts of epiphytes on the power lines.
posted by primalux at 6:46 PM on August 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Epiphytes was my thought as well.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:59 PM on August 19, 2017

Ball moss, an epiphytic bromeliad, not a moss.

Do a google image search for 'ball moss power line' to see many similar examples.

Same stuff is all over TX, in oak trees, on roofs, etc.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:13 PM on August 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yup, air plants!

And if you are wondering the long-tail-crow birds are Great Tailed Grackles, and the swallows with forked tails could have been Barn Swallows or White-Throated Swifts.
posted by lepus at 7:17 PM on August 19, 2017

Well, cool, that was fast! I didn't know air plants came in round; they are so cute.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:26 PM on August 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Individual tillandsia aren't typically "round" exactly - it's that each one of those balls is probably 20-30 plants living together. Tillandsia ("air plants") are monocarpic, meaning they bloom once and die - but the mother plant sends out pups before dying, the cycle repeats, and that is how an individual plant can eventually turn into a huge clump.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:09 AM on August 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I know pigeons didn't make these! Did the swallows?

I'd actually put my money on the pigeons. Swallows are insectivores; I think pigeon crap adhering to the lines would be the more likely to contain viable seeds.
posted by flabdablet at 10:26 AM on August 20, 2017

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