Where do birds nest?

Mourning Dove Nest in Fern Basket
(Photo © readlistendream)
Birds nest in all kinds of places! Where a bird builds its nest depends on the bird species.

Different species of birds nest in different kinds of habitat, at different heights, and at different times. Some birds nest in trees, bushes, the ground, or nest boxes; on balconies or cliffs; under bridges, and many more places.

For example:

  • Ovenbirds create their nests in the ground (they look like a Dutch oven – with a side entrance).
  • Pigeons make very flimsy nests (sometimes they add no nesting material at all and lay their eggs on bare ground). They might lay their eggs on an air conditioning unit on the window of a city building or on the floor of a balcony.
  • Killdeer lay their eggs right on the ground. They might lay their eggs on building rooftops, gravel parking lots, or a baseball field. Gravel rooftops attract Killdeer for nesting, but they can be dangerous.
    Killdeer Nest on Rocks
    (Photo © michaelcobballen)
    Chicks may be unable to leave a roof because of high parapets and screened drain openings. When adults lure chicks off the roof, the chicks may die from the fall. However, some chicks have been observed leaping from a seven-story building and surviving!
  • Mourning Doves usually build their nests in trees but will build them on the ground, on window ledges, or on other man-made structures if needed. The male looks for a good place to build the nest, and once he finds one he calls the female and she either approves or disapproves. If they choose that site the male finds small twigs and delivers them individually to the female by standing on her back. She arranges them around her and uses her body to make a simple bowl. The male might make 30–40 trips at a time to give the female nesting material (normally in the early morning).
  • Hummingbirds build tiny nests. They are built by the female alone in trees (oaks, birches, pines), bushes, or other more interesting places like loops of chain or wire. Males and females only come in contact while mating. Scientists think that females find the place to build the nest, incubate the eggs, and raise their young without any help from the male.
  • American Robin Nestlings
    (Photo © cameronrognan)
    Robins might take 5-7 days to build their first nest. Most raise a second brood during the breeding season, which can fledge just 5 weeks after the first! The second time a robin builds a nest it might take only 2-3 days, and rarely robins will have to build a third nest, which they can do in one day – but this is unusual.
  • Day length tells most birds what season it is and lets them know when it is time to migrate or to breed. Birds have to time their nesting cycle so that they will be feeding their nestlings when food is most abundant.

    Did you know?

    Yellow Warbler Feeding Cowbird Chicks
    (Photo © Robinsegg)
    Brown-headed Cowbirds don’t make nests. Instead, they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species, who then raise the young cowbirds.

    Book recommendation: A great book about where birds nest is: Urban Roosts: Where Birds Nest in the City by Barbara Bash (Author), Sierra Club Books (Author)

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