Nests: Houses Without a Mortgage

American Goldfinch nest

All birds incubate their eggs in some sort of nest. Some nests may not look like much to us, but they serve their purpose for that particular bird. Building the nest in a safe place is important because the nest helps protect the eggs and young from wind, rain, storms, and predators. Birds often place their nests near food sources.

Birds use a wide variety of materials for their nests including grasses, twigs, roots, feathers, thistle down, mud, sheep wool, horsehair, lichens, spider webs, leaves, and plant fibers. Some unusual materials used in building nests include cellophane, colored yarn, newspaper, and trash. A pair of warbling vireos built a nest and used nothing but facial tissues!

For many species, nest building is one of the first activities a newly formed pair of birds performs. Site selection and nest building may be done by the male, the female, or both birds, but generally the female is in charge. Watching a bird build a nest is fascinating. Cliff swallows make up to 1,400 trips back and forth to build their gourd-shaped nest of mud. Once a nest is built, the bird will defend its territory by scolding or even attacking any intruders that get near the nest.

Match the nests to the bird.