From the largest nests made by bald eagles to the tiniest nests made by small hummingbirds, there is incredible diversity in the sizes and shapes of bird nests.
The simple fact that birds build their own homes is amazing, but when you take a closer look at the elaborate nests that different types of birds make, it’s even more clear how wonderful and bizarre these creatures are. Let’s look at some of the most impressive nests.
Bald Eagle: The Largest Bird Nests in the World
Bald eagles build unusually large nests. They can live 20 to 30 years, and since they mate for life, their nests can grow impressively large. Bald eagles incubate their young for 35 days, and it takes 10-12 weeks before the young birds take flight, so this family of large birds needs some room to move while it’s raising its family.
In 1963, the largest bird nest ever recorded was found just outside St. Petersburg, Florida. It measured 9 feet 6 inches wide and 20 feet deep, weighing over 4,400 pounds! Even though most bald eagle nests are much smaller than that, measuring 6 feet across and less than 4 feet deep, they’re still about the size of a small car. That’s impressive!
Bee Hummingbird: The Tiniest Nests of All
If you think the size of a bald eagle nest is impressive, wait until you hear about the tiniest bird nest of all. The bee hummingbird has the smallest nest of any bird, and it’s about the size of a thimble. These tiny hummingbirds, which shouldn’t be confused with bumblebee hummingbirds, are the smallest living birds. The males, which are smaller than the females, weigh less than 2 grams each.
The females use bits of lichen, bark, and cobwebs to build nests less than an inch in diameter. To make it plush and soft, they line it with tiny plant fibers. Unlike the bald eagle, which uses the same nest year after year, bee hummingbird nests are only used once. After the tiny fledglings take flight, these minute bird nests quickly degrade in the elements and disappear altogether. Pretty spectacular!
Montezuma Oropendola: High-Security Hanging Nests
When it comes to birds’ nests, one of the most amazing sights is a tree with 20 to 30 Montezuma Oropendola nests hanging from its branches. Only the females build nests, weaving branches together to construct nests out of hanging vines, banana fibers, and other materials.
Even more impressive is that these hanging nests are built next to wasp nests. The wasps protect the birds and their young from predators, including botflies. When these beautiful birds don’t hang their nests next to the wasps, the botflies are able to lay their eggs on the hatchlings, which causes them to weaken and die.
The average number of nests that can be found in one tree is 24, but there have been as many as 130 nests in a single tree.
Sociable Weavers: Taking Nest Building to a New Level
Sociable weavers live in the desert regions of Africa, but they have something in common with apartment dwellers all over the world. These birds build nests that do more than provide a space to raise their young. The communal homes that sociable weavers build help them escape extreme temperatures that range from 110°F (43°C) on hot summer days to 14°F (-10°C) during the winter.
Sociable weavers take their architectural skills seriously, building complex multigenerational homes over 20 feet tall and ten feet wide. Up to 500 individual birds can live in one unit, and these highly social birds all pitch in to raise their young. How marvelous!
Common Murres: Living on the Edge
Common murres may be masters of physics. Not only do they live life on the edge of a cliff, but they have pointy eggs. The shape of their eggs has evolved so they are more stable than an ordinary bird’s egg, making them less likely to roll off the high cliffs where these birds colonize.
Common murres, also known as guillemots, nest in colonies called loomeries along the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the lower part of the Arctic circle. These colonies are tightly packed, with over twenty pairs of birds per square meter. The most amazing thing about common murres is that they don’t use a nest at all. Each year, these birds incubate a single egg on bare rock, and some of these colonies are up to 1,500 feet above the ocean. Now, that’s outstanding!
Swiftlets: Edible Bird’s Nests
Yes, you read that right. The nests of edible-nest swiftlets are considered a delicacy in many parts of Asia, particularly in China. Also known as yan wo, these nests are made from the birds’ hardened and dried saliva. The nests are harvested and made into soup or served as a dessert. Edible birds’ nests are high in protein and have a rich flavor, and at over $3,000 per pound, they are one of the most expensive foods eaten by humans.
Only three species of swallows build these incredible nests. Edible-nest swiftlets historically built their nests in limestone caves by the sea, but because of the high demand for these nests, people started building concrete nesting houses for them. Wow!
These impressive bird nests are just a few of the weird and wonderful nests that birds make. All over the planet, there are amazing birds that have adapted to their environments in various ways. With nests the size of a small car to the size of a thimble, birds build their own homes in unique ways to raise their young and make their habitats safe and secure.