Bird Nest Identification

Bird Nest Identification
An empty bird nest is inherently intriguing, a natural mystery story--what bird built the nest? Are there eggs inside? How did the bird manage to create such a complex structure out of a small amount of crude, found materials?

If you are curious about the residents of a nest, but they are not immediately available to identify, you are still in luck. The nest itself can point you to the absent avians. Without disturbing the nest or its contents, view or photograph the nest. Use your observations to compare with the habits of birds common to the area.


Difficulty: Moderate


Step 1
Scout the location of the nest. When we think of nests, we tend to picture them in a bush or tree, yet birds choose locations that best fit their specific needs for safety, camouflage and protection from predators. Nests may be found high in trees or on remote cliffs; they may be built in burrows or cavities; or they may consist of simple scrapes or hollows on the ground.
Step 2
Check the size. Size is a gross indicator that will allow you to generally narrow the options of which bird likely made the nest. The larger the nest, the larger the bird species. Keep in mind that birds will use a nest that is approximate to their body size in order to protect and insulate the eggs inside.
Step 3
Back away and watch for the birds who built or used the nest to return. Do not assume that the bird using the nest is responsible for its construction; many species will enter the nest of another to sneak in their own eggs, destroy eggs or take over its use.


Step 1
Note the materials used to build the nest. Nests are often created with two layers. The tougher exterior may contain twigs, leaves, garbage or mud. The inner lining usually features softer items such as string, hair or feathers. The components can be unique to a species, so a list of material may lead you directly to the bird in question.
Step 2
Consider the formation of the materials. The various bird species assemble their nests in a distinctive manner. Nests may be flat platforms, cup-shaped, pensile (supported from the rim or the side of the nest, yet stiff), pendulous (supported from the rim or the side of the nest, but flexible) or adherent (attached by mud or saliva).
Step 3
Note the overall complexity of construction. The most complex nests are built by only a small selection of birds, including swallows and weaver finches. These birds have a greater ability to maneuver and possess better flying skills necessary to complete such a nest. Birds with less flight capacity tend to build simpler nests, closer to the ground.

Article Written By Alice Moon

Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.

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