Posted by: ktzefr | February 8, 2013

12 Fun Facts About Nests…and the Birds that Build Them

My bird feeder is getting constant attention these days.  Cardinals perch outside my kitchen window and peer in when I’m having breakfast.  A blue jay family comes every morning for peanuts.  Their squawks usually alert the squirrels that breakfast is being served.  A couple of days ago I saw a pileated woodpecker in a tree across the street.  I thought it may be a hawk until I took a look through the binoculars and saw that pretty red top.  What a sight! 

I’ve seen gorgeous and unusual birds in the tropics, but the shocking red of the male cardinal, or the intricate markings of a blue jay, or the sudden glimpse of a real live Woody Woodpecker still amazes me.  There is sometimes a tendency to see birds as simple beings, but they can be quite complex. 

Consider the nest…

Great Frigate Bird, Isla Genovesa, Galapagos Islands; Photo:MFawcett

Great Frigate Bird, Isla Genovesa, Galapagos Islands; Photo:MFawcett

The Great Frigatebird (watch & listen) builds a nest of twigs in low trees or shrubs close to shore. Birds are rather particular about their nests.

Did you know…

1)  It is illegal for private citizens to possess most species of native birds, or their feathers, or their eggs, or even their abandoned nests.

2)  A bird’s nest is a small miracle, woven with such precision that it stays sturdy and secure even during the harshest winters.

3)  A nest is not a home, at least not in the human sense.  It’s used merely to hold the eggs and protect the young.  The vast majority of nests are abandoned once the babies are old enough to leave.

4)  Many creatures, including wasps and mice and alligators, build nests.  But nothing can compare with a bird’s nest in complexity of design.

5)  The skill to build a nest is instinctive, though some studies show that young birds do improve with practice.  Some birds raised in captivity can build nests typical of their species without ever having seen one.

6)  A nest has many layers, each serving a specific purpose.  Coarse twigs often form the base while finer twigs and weeds are laced with bark to create the cup.  Dry leaves, fine grasses, and other soft materials form the inner lining.  Some birds, such as the American oriole and the tropical Montezuma’s oropendola in Costa Rica may spend days constructing an elaborate nest by weaving and tying sophisticated knots to form the long hanging pouches that look like purses.

Some birds do not have the luxury of a real nest.  The Waved Albatross (click to watch the dance of the albatross) breeds on Espanola Island in the Galapagos.  A single egg is laid on bare ground and both parents share the incubation.

Waved Albatross, Isla Espanola, Galapagos Islands; Photo:MFawcett

Waved Albatross, Isla Espanola, Galapagos Islands; Photo:MFawcett

Masked boobies and baby, Isla Genevesa, Galapagos Islands; Photo:KFawcett

Masked boobies and baby, Isla Genevesa, Galapagos Islands; Photo:KFawcett

The masked booby lays two eggs on the ground amongst the rocks, but only one chick is allowed to be reared.  These birds have learned to survive over the centuries under harsh conditions.  Sometimes city birds have to find creative ways to survive, too.

7)  Suburban birds have learned to incorporate man-made items into their nests — paper, string, nails, pieces of wire, fabric. 

8)  Some birds line their nests with specific plants they have selected that inhibit mites and other parasites, while others find pieces of shed snake skin to deter predators.

9)  Quail and ducks use their own down feathers to line their nests, but others collect feathers dropped by larger birds.  Some small birds that are fast flyers will even strike big birds in flight in order to knock feathers loose. 

10)  Female birds are usually the skilled builders.  Some, such as female hummingbirds, do all the construction.  Male hummers do not help with the nest nor with the young.  They are footloose and fancy free.

11)  In some species the male bird builds the foundation and lets the female do the rest (the intricate, detailed lining).  Some males build multiple “dummy” nests around the territory to fool predators. 

12)  Hummingbirds build tiny thimble-sized nests and line them with spider webs.  Bald eagles, on the other hand, build huge nests that they often use year after year, building “additions” as they go.  The largest of these nests can reach a depth of 20 feet and weigh two tons! 


These facts about birds came from the following source: “Small Miracles” by Kenn Kaufman, Audubon magazine, March-April 2008.

Check out the BIRDS OF CELESTUN from the Wildlife Refuge in Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico with it’s tens of thousands of flamingoes! 



“Where do the ducks go when they fly in a V over the houses and trees and mountains?  South, Aunt Rose says.  They’re flying away from the cold.  Ducks are smart and ducks are free.”

“I can see rain clouds slipping over the mountain….  I turn up my face to catch the first drops.  Today this is happiness.  Cool rain on a hot face.  I hold my eyes open for as long as I can before it starts to pour.”

“Sometimes I twirl the globe and stop to see where my finger lands, pretending I’ll go there someday, but most of the time I land smack in the middle of the ocean on the other side of the world.”

Buy: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, and most independent bookstores


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