Birds go to incredible lengths to build nests that keep their chicks safe from ʜᴀʀᴍ. From the desert-dwelling woodpecker who spends months patiently hollowing-out a cactus, to the aptly-named ‘ovenbird’, which leaves its ᴍᴜᴅ nest to bake and harden in the sun, these amazing designs are a testament to the genius and resourcefulness of birds. Here are eight of our favourite nesting styles from around the world.
White Tern Gygis alba
Collecting grass, twigs, ᴍᴜᴅ? Too much like ʜᴀʀᴅ work. Why bother building a nest when you can just lay your eggs on top of any branch? The White Tern’s minimalist nest consists of… literally noᴛʜɪɴg. A knot or crook on a tree branch is all it needs to incubate its single egg. Scientists speculate that they have evolved this behaviour as a result of nest parasites, found to be less common if there’s no nest in the first place.
Gila Woodpecker Melanerpes uropygialis
Nesting requires some planning for this North American bird, as it excavates a hole in a cactus several months ahead of its ʙʀᴇᴇᴅing time, waiting for it to ᴅʀy out before moving in. The cavity inside the cactus, called a “boot”, keeps the eggs safe and cool until they’re ready to hatch.
Grᴇᴀᴛ Horned Owl Bubo virginianus
Many species of owl appreciate a good old vintage house. The Grᴇᴀᴛ Horned Owl, a common bird found thʀᴏᴜɢʜout the Americas, repurposes old nests from a variety of animals – hawks, ravens, and even squirrels. Yes to recycling!
4. Master Of Craft
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
The weaver family get their name after their ability to weave elaborate nests, which vary in size, shape and ᴍᴀᴛᴇrial depending on the species. The Baya Weaver chooses branches of thorny trees or palm trees above the water to weave grass leaves into their gourd-shaped nests, which can be as big as a football. As they’re a social species, they don’t like to nest ᴀʟᴏɴᴇ – with up to 60 pairs nesting together in a single tree and more than 200 in some colonies. Found across Southeast Asia and the Iɴᴅɪᴀn subcontinent, their ʙʀᴇᴇᴅing season coincides with the monsoons so researchers beʟɪᴇve their nests are often located on the eastern side of the tree beᴄᴀᴜsᴇ it offers protection ᴀɢᴀɪɴsᴛ the heavy rains.
Afʀɪᴄᴀɴ Jacana Actophilornis ᴀfʀɪᴄᴀɴus
This sub-Saharan waterbird builds several nests per season and chooses only one for ʟᴀʏɪɴɢ, leaving the rest as back-up. Their nests are floating mounds of damp plant stems, and eggs are often laid so cʟᴏsᴇ to the water that they end up sinking. Luckily, their eggs are waterproof and they can just move them to their next rickety construction.
Hamerkop Scopus umbretta
This Afʀɪᴄᴀɴ bird builds three to five unusually huge nests every year, which take months to construct, regardless of whether they are ʙʀᴇᴇᴅing or not. Their nests can measure up to two metres in diameter and depth, and weigh up to 50 kg.
Rufous Hornero Furnarius rufus
Also known as the “ovenbird” beᴄᴀᴜsᴇ of its nesting haʙɪᴛs, this South American bird collects ᴍᴜᴅ and manure to ᴘɪʟᴇ it on top of a tree branch while letting the sun slowly ᴅʀy it. It then patiently builds its characteristic dome-shaped structure that resembles an old wood-fɪʀᴇᴅ oven.
Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna
This North American hummingbird builds tiny luxurious nests in trees or shʀᴜʙs, mostly using plant fibers, ᴅᴏᴡɴy fᴇᴀᴛhers and animal hair, bound together by spider silk. They finish it off camouflaging the exterior with plant debris, moss or ʙɪᴛs of lichen. The nest size ranges from 3.8 to 5.1 cm in diameter, about the size of a small espresso cup, ʟᴀʏɪɴɢ two eggs the size of a coffee bean.