Home Is Where The Nest Was Made

Without fail, each spring we receive calls and complaints about an animal nest around people causing problems. Most of the time these grievances are noise or poop related, two understandable reasons to grumble! While there isn’t anything we can do to relieve these people, especially if the animal is a protected bird species, it does raise a question:

What’s the big deal with nests anyway?

Social Weaver Bird Nest by Vernon Swanepoel.

Nests are a structure created by animals for safety, reproduction, and rearing young. While plenty of animals create nests, perhaps the most notable and complaint-causing nest builders are birds. While it would be a stretch to consider nests the permanent home of any bird, it is the place where many species will raise their young this year and even the following years if resources permit. Just like many of us, birds often take great care in the construction and care of their nests, for some species, it is even a deciding factor in whether the bird wins a partner at all! With over 10,000 known species of bird, many of which build nests, it is very likely you are near a bird’s chosen nesting spot while you are reading this. The nests themselves can be as simple as a scrape in the ground, or as complex as the African Social Weaverbird Apartments.

While the variety of nest designs is fascinating, perhaps the most interesting feature of any bird nest is the building process. It’s not so much who builds the nest, but rather, how effective many birds are at building their nests with resources they must find and manipulate with only their talons and beaks. These animals utilize the sticks and twigs found throughout their territory to construct their nest piece by single piece.

Build it Better

Perhaps that doesn’t sound terribly difficult, or maybe you like a challenge; either way, one of the best ways to understand the effort put into nest building is to build one yourself! If you are up for it, you can start by sourcing one set of needle nose pliers. These will be your “beak”. From here on out, you may only use these pliers to move, place or shape your materials.

Mourning Dove Nest by Louis

Next you will need to pick what nest design you would like to build. Perhaps you want to build a simple nest like that of a mourning dove, or maybe you’re thing more ambitiously, either way, look through some of the nest designs found throughout the world and pick one. You may keep the picture open as a reference, but don’t use any online instructions!

Now, you will need to look at your nest design closely, what materials are being used? How big is it? What is it attached to? Like any building project, a bird nest needs specific materials. These materials change drastically depending on the nest design, some birds prefer to use sticks, mud, and spider silk, others prefer to create a sort of concrete from grass, feathers, and the mud found nearby. Still other bird species will burrow themselves into the side of trees, hills, or rocks to provide shelter from all sides.

Once you have decided on what materials you will use, you need to find them! The birds themselves are often picky about their materials, spending hours finding the right leaf, twig, or mud to further stabilize their creations. Take your trusty pliers “beak” and begin looking for your materials. Remember, you may only bring back what you can hold in the pliers. This process will be tedious and like the bird you will probably be running back and numerous times, just to gather enough material to build the nest you need.

Now you’ve gathered some materials, you can begin crafting your nest. Use your pliers to shape, place, or weave the materials. Take your time and make sure each piece is placed just right. You want your nest to be solid and sturdy, capable of standing up to wind and rain. If you’ve been diligent, your nest should be taking shape! Keep gathering materials and placing them, in time you might find that you have a pretty good nest built! Be proud of it, and share a photo of it with us!

If you are like me, however, you abandoned this project somewhere after being questioned why you were picking grass with pliers. If that is the case for you, then join me in appreciating just how much work goes into making bird nests of all kinds! We may complain about them occasionally, but they are going to extraordinary efforts to raise their young in a good home. Birds are masters at their craft, capable of creating sturdy, safe, and structurally sound homes in almost any location despite the lack of crafted tools, opposable thumbs, and drawn out designs!