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9 Birds That Are Experts at Nest Building

Written By Richie Alston


Being able to build a nest is an integral part of a bird’s life. Many birds build perfectly decent nests, but they are a bit generic. They serve a purpose. Some birds build some incredible nests, though.

Below are birds from across the globe that build some of the most intricate, impressive, unique and mindboggling nests you’ll have ever come across:

1) Montezuma Oropendola

The Montezuma Oropendola is a strikingly large, tropical bird, predominantly colored in chestnut with a contrasting bright yellow tail. It is easily recognized by its black head and vibrant blue facial skin.

These birds are known for their complex and melodious calls, which add to their distinctive character.

What Makes Its Nest Unique

The uniqueness of the Montezuma Oropendola’s nest lies in its remarkable design and construction. These birds weave elaborate, hanging nests that resemble elongated bags or pouches, suspended from the ends of tree branches.

These nests can be up to a meter in length. Made primarily from grasses, vines, and other plant materials, these nests are engineered to swing and sway, which helps protect the eggs and chicks from predators and parasites.

The communal aspect of their nesting, where a tree can host numerous nests, creates a spectacular sight and demonstrates their complex social structure. This architectural feat not only serves a practical purpose but also highlights the bird’s advanced skill in nest building, distinguishing it from other bird species.

2) Bald Eagle

The Bald Eagle, America’s national bird, is a large raptor with a white head and tail contrasting its dark brown body and wings. It has a formidable beak and piercing eyes.

What Makes Its Nest Unique

Bald Eagles build some of the largest nests of any bird species. Their nests, known as aeries, are constructed with sticks and located in high trees or cliffs.

These nests are often reused and added to each year, growing to massive sizes, sometimes measuring over 8 feet in diameter and weighing hundreds of pounds.

3) Ruby-throated Hummingbird

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a tiny bird known for its iridescent green feathers and the ruby-colored throat of the males, is commonly seen darting around flowers in eastern North America.

What Makes Its Nest Unique

These birds build tiny, cup-shaped nests that are exquisitely camouflaged. They use spider silk and plant down to construct the nests, decorating the exterior with lichens and moss to blend seamlessly with the environment.

The elasticity of spider silk allows the nest to expand as the chicks grow.

4) Western Osprey

The Western Osprey is a large raptor with distinctive white underparts and brown upperparts, found near water bodies across the United States.

What Makes Its Nest Unique

Ospreys build large nests atop trees, poles, buoys, or platforms near water. These nests are constructed from sticks and lined with grass, algae, or other softer materials. They often reuse and refurbish their nests each year, which can grow to over 6 feet in diameter.

5) American Cliff Swallow

American Cliff Swallows are small, social birds with square tails and a buffy rump. They are recognized by their dark, iridescent backs and pale, pumpkin-colored underparts.

What Makes Its Nest Unique

Cliff Swallows construct gourd-shaped nests made from mud pellets, often built under eaves, bridges, or cliffs. These colonies can host hundreds of nests clustered together, showcasing their highly social nature.

6) Eastern Bluebird

The Eastern Bluebird is a small thrush with a bright blue upper body and a rusty chest. They are a beloved sight in gardens and fields across the eastern United States.

What Makes Its Nest Unique

Eastern Bluebirds are cavity nesters, often using old woodpecker holes or nest boxes. Their nests are simple, made from grass or pine needles, but the use of cavities for nesting provides protection from many predators and harsh weather.

7) Red-cockaded Woodpecker

This small woodpecker is known for its black and white barred back and a distinctive black cap. It’s found in pine forests in the southeastern U.S.

What Makes Its Nest Unique

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are unique for their nesting habits in living pine trees. They excavate cavities in the soft wood of living, heart-rotted pines.

These nests are a crucial part of their survival and have also contributed to their endangered status, as their habitat is quite specific.

8) Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl, known for its intimidating yellow eyes and tufts of feathers resembling horns, is a versatile and widespread bird of prey in North America.

What Makes Its Nest Unique

Great Horned Owls do not build their own nests. Instead, they take over nests built by other large birds, such as hawks, eagles, or herons. This adaptive behavior showcases their resourcefulness and dominance in their ecosystem.

9) Purple Martin

Purple Martins are the largest North American swallows, known for their glossy, dark blue-purple plumage. They are extremely social and popular among bird enthusiasts.

What Makes Its Nest Unique

Purple Martins on the east coast of the U.S. almost exclusively nest in artificial birdhouses provided by humans.

These communal nesting sites can house many families in compartmentalized structures, creating a unique dependency on human-provided habitats for their survival in these regions.

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