Not typically thought of as architectural geniuses, birds have quite the knack for building strong, comfortable and protective nests to birth and raise their young. With the nesting season upon us, it is a great time to get out and see if any local birds are making their homes close to yours.

While most of us are trained to spot traditional nests perched in the treetops or perhaps around our homes on gutters or under windowsills, there are a wide variety of other nest designs and locations that could be right under your nose.

We will go over the major nest designs and the typical residents that call each nest home.

Cupped Nests

These are the traditional nest types that most of us can easily recognize. They can differ in size and actual depth but are often seen in tree branches, forks, and other platform-like surfaces. Ornithologist Olin Sewall Pettingill sub-categorizes the cup nest design into four categories: supported cup nests, suspended cup nests, pensile cup nests and adherent nests, all usually depending on the species using the nest.

Typical species include: warblers, robins, swallows and a variety of passerines.


Cavity Nests

Just as the name suggests, these nests are either built within excavated cavities or natural cavities, mostly within tree trunks, telephone poles and other small gaps.

Typical species include woodpeckers, eastern bluebirds, sparrows and chickadees.

Burrow Nests

Much like cavity nests, burrow nests can either be constructed by the bird or an existing hole or burrow can be used by the bird, usually depending on the species. Bank swallows, for example, will create their own burrows while burrowing owls typically use a burrow that was often constructed by another species.

Typical species include: bank swallows, burrowing owls, kingfishers, and the Atlantic puffin

Scrape Nests

There is not much to these nests, which typically comprise of a shallow depression in the ground with not much else. These nests are reserved for species that live in open spaces such as shorebirds.

Typical species include shorebirds, gulls, terns, and vultures.

Platform Nests

These nests are flat in construction and can be found in a variety of different locations. These nests are one of the larger varieties and are often reused year over year by continually adding material to the nest over time.

Typical species include bald eagles, ospreys, great blue herons, and many other large raptors.


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