Jul 18 2011

Avian Architecture

Published by at 7:30 am under Books & Events

I've just finished reading a fascinating book about birds' nests called Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer & Build (Princeton University Press, 2011) by Peter Goodfellow.

It's not your typical bird-nest guide.  Instead the book groups nests by architectural type, shows blueprints of their construction, and provides case studies and photographs of species who construct each type. 

Did you know that...

  • Female hornbills seal themselves into their cavity nests and must rely on their mates to feed them through a narrow slit until the chicks are ready to fledge.
  • African Jacanas build nests that float.
  • Spider silk and moss work like Velcro.  The builder can stick them together, pull them apart and re-glue them elsewhere.  Hummingbirds are masters at this.
  • Some birds actually stitch their nests.  The common tailorbird (nest pictured above) wraps a large leaf with a thread to make it curl, then pokes its bill through the leaf edges and uses spider or cocoon silk to sew it in place.  When the curl is secure she builds her nest inside.
  • Megapodes build compost heaps and lay their eggs in them.  The heat of the decaying vegetable matter incubates the eggs.

If you'd like to learn about avian architecture this book is a great place to start.  The photographs and illustrations are gorgeous.  I learned something new on every page.  

Click here to find out more from Princeton University Press.

(photo of a Common Tailorbird nest by J.M. Garg at Wikimedia Commons.  Click on the photo to see the original.)

p.s.  Scott Shalaway recommended this book among his Wildlife Books for Summer Reading.

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Avian Architecture”

  1. sharon Leadbitteron 18 Jul 2011 at 7:48 am

    Did you know that the African Hammerkopf builds the biggest nest and decorates the outside with whatever they can find?


  2. sharon Leadbitteron 18 Jul 2011 at 10:09 am

    Also, the South African weaver birds can build nests that house multiple families … kinda of like a bird apartment building ….


  3. Kate St. Johnon 18 Jul 2011 at 10:41 am

    Sharon, you must have read the book! Both of these nests (and many other unusual ones) are featured in Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer and Build.

  4. sharon Leadbitteron 18 Jul 2011 at 11:57 am

    Nahhhhh …. Wild Earth TV has a channel called Safari Channel run by the Sabi Sands Lodge in Djuma South Africa … used to be a regular watcher and regular asker of questions to the ranger guides

  5. Joshon 20 Jul 2011 at 7:16 pm

    I watched a fantastic TV show series on birds of the world some years ago, which I now forget the name of. It included a number of interesting birds nests, including the Hornbill and the Weaverbird. Although I can’t remember the name, I know it had the word “bird” in it and that it was narrated by David Attenborough. I think it might have been done by the BBC as well. I don’t know if you can buy it or not, but we found it in our local library.

  6. Hueyon 01 Aug 2011 at 8:16 am

    I am facinated by the coverage on avian architecture. This open an entire new dimension in my interest on bird-watching. Every chapter offers something new such as African Jacanas build nests that floats! Megapodes lay their eggs in compost to incubates its eggs. Ingenious.

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