Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Wonderful new book on nests

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology, Birds in the backyard, Nesting Updated: June 17, 2011 - 8:21 AM

 “Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build” is a new book that examines bird-nest construction in detail, with photos and how-to drawings. Not that you’re going to build a nest. With few exceptions, you couldn’t. That’s what makes this book so interesting. It’s clear that birds stand alone when it comes to intricate and specialized construction of structures in which they raise young. Birds weave. They tie knots. They mold. They decorate. They invest countless hours to build something they’ll use for a few weeks at most.

The examples in this fascinating book, written by Peter Goodfellow, include hole and tunnel nests (woodpeckers and chickadees), platform nests (Osprey and eagles), aquatic nests (loons), mud nests (robins), hanging nests (orioles), and others. Goodfellow provides blueprints for each nest type, a list of building materials, and case studies. All are illustrated with photographs and superb artwork, and explained in clear, concise text. Bird nests can be as fascinating as the bird itself. “Avian Architecture” makes that point clear.

The book, published by Princeton University Press, will be released at the end of this month, price $27.95.

I read “Avian Architecture” cover to cover without putting it down. I’m fascinated by nests, being built, in use, or abandoned at season’s end. Goodfellow now has me actively looking for nest constructions I haven’t seen. I hope to find an oriole nest that I can harvest at the end of the nesting season so I can examine it closely and take photos. How it is secured to tree branches intrigues me.

Here”s an excerpt from the book:

“In modern Human life there are two aspects which birds thought of first. A fine example of the Do-It-Yourself Bird (or Hen-pecked Husband, depending on your point of view) is the Winter Wren. The male may build half a dozen nests in spring. He shows his chosen female a nest who just puts the finishing touches to it, lining it with feathers. In complete contrast is one of the leaders of the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Red-necked Phalarope. She lays four eggs in a scrape in the ground. She then leaves them, and they are incubated by the male, who continues the home duties by rearing the young until they fledge after about three weeks.”

And here is one of the plates, giving you step-by-step construction of a mud cup nest:

 

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