March 2015

Factoid March 6, 2015

Top 5 Interesting Nests in North America

Across the continent, birds are gearing up to start the nesting process as spring arrives. Below we’ve chosen five of what we think are the coolest nests or nesting habits of North American birds.

Hanging Around

Baltimore Oriole and Bullock’s Oriole

Photos © Gary Tyson

Both Baltimore Oriole in the east and Bullock’s Oriole in the west make what is known as a pendant style nest. The female anchors her nest high in a tree, first hanging long fibers over a small branch, then poking and darting her bill in and out. While no knots are deliberately tied, soon the random poking has made knots and tangles, and the female brings more fibers to extend, close, and finally line the nest. These orioles’ nests are certainly an exercise in functional beauty.

You Can’t See Me


Photos © Morgan Terrinoni

In what could be considered an anti-nest, the Killdeer nests in a shallow depression scratched into the bare ground. Killdeer often add rocks, bits of shell, sticks, and trash to the nest. Curiously, these items tend to be light colored, and this tendency was confirmed in one experiment that gave Killdeer the choice between light and dark sticks. Once they’re done, Killdeer lay cryptically patterned eggs that help complete this hard-to-find nest, well hidden in plain sight!

Squeeze Us In

Brown Creeper

Photos © Gary Fairhead

The Brown Creeper builds its nest between a loose piece of bark and the tree trunk of dead or dying trees. She builds the frame of the nest by layering twigs and strips of bark. She uses insect cocoons and spider egg cases to stick those materials to each other and to the inner surface of the tree bark. The nest cup, up to 2.5 inches deep and 6 inches across, consists of wood fibers, spider egg cases, hair, feathers, grass, pieces of leaves, lichens, and mosses.

Comfy and Cozy

Common Eider

Photos © Finn Rindahl

There’s a reason why feather down pillows are popular with people, so it’s not surprising that eiders make their own. The female makes a heavily insulated nest in a scrape in the ground, usually near water, and lines it with vegetation and her own downy feathers. The ducklings hatch into a comfy, cozy world!

Nesting With Altitude

Peregrine Falcon

Photos © Kris Peterson

Historically, Peregrine Falcons nested on cliffs from about 25–1,300 feet high (and higher, including on the rim of the Grand Canyon). Today, Peregrines often nest on structures with cliff-like characteristics including electricity transmission towers, silos, skyscrapers, church steeples, and bridges. In places without cliffs, Peregrines may use abandoned Common Raven, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, or cormorant nests. In the Pacific Northwest they may nest among or even under Sitka spruce tree roots on steep slopes.

Monitor Nests For Science!

Join NestWatch today and help monitor breeding success!

This Month’s Articles

Which Came First: The Cavity or the Cup?

Research Recap March 20, 2015

No Nest Required

Factoid March 12, 2015

Top 5 Interesting Nests in North America

Factoid March 6, 2015


  1. Denise Doctor says:

    thank you for these, truly amazing

  2. Suzanne DeSaix says:

    Wonderful photos and great ‘sound bites’ to use for promoting habitat preservation, such as not cutting dead or dying trees where possible and appropriate. Love your programs. Cheers to Cornell!

  3. These articles about nesting and the wonderful photos are so great. I just watched a NOVA episode on TV about animal nests… the episode showed bird nesting habits. THANK YOU CORNELL!

  4. Marie says:

    Thank you for the informative and interesting info

  5. adriaan botha says:

    Thanks amasing stuff

  6. Starr Goodspeed says:

    These are lovely. Add cactus wren for the folks – they are pretty great, too.

  7. pat huff says:

    Just when I thought you were presenting an amazing website, you upped the usefulness even more. As a science teacher for elementary children, I find your information very useful. I cannot thank you enough for the wonderful presentations and easy useability.

  8. pat huff says:

    What an amazing addition to your already very useful website. As a science teacher for elementary children, I find your information well organized and user friendly. Thank you so much for all that you do.

  9. Lynn says:

    PBS just aired a related topic. I learned cowbirds do not have nests and invade other nests to lay eggs and the nests’ parents actually care for that egg and baby bird!

  10. These species show a special relationship to the construction of their nests. They use simple but unusual materials in this process.

  11. Yep, they are all cute unusual. I think that there is one more interesting thing about them. I am talking of the evolutionary factors influences on the chosen forms.

  12. Judith Rose says:

    I just found you! WONDERFUL!!! I’ll be back!

  13. I would also add a famous house with ghosts in the mountains north of Nevada, I was there with a tour along with the class

  14. Micah says:

    Every year I find a kill-deer nest the kill-deer always fakes me out and it takes thee of four days to find it.

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