Your Wild Birds Guide

Bird Nesting Habits are Intriguing!

Where do Birds like to Build Their Nest?

There is no one place that covers all bird nesting habits.

Some birds like a solitary situation when finding a location for building a nest and others are communal.

The American Gold Finch requires an area that they defend against other Gold Finches preventing them from nesting too close.

Although in the fall and winter months you will see them in groups wandering about feeding together.

Many birds such as Goldfinches, build open cup shaped nests on a tree branch or in a bush. This is for many people the most familiar style of bird nest habitat. Watch four Goldfinch fledgling leave their nest.

Some Birds are Colonial Nesters

The Blue Heron is the exact opposite in it's nesting habits to the Goldfinch.

They will come together with other Blue Herons to build their nests in close proximity to one another, usually near or even over water, often in a swampy area.

This is called a rookery and is a colonial nesting style.

The birds build and rear their young independently of other Blue Heron families within the colony, but enjoy the protection such a large group provides.

But during the rest of the year other than to migrate they are solitary birds, hunting alone.

Variety is King When it comes to Wild Bird Nesting Habits

Then there are birds who like to nest in trees which we are all quite familiar with. 

Some inside the tree in a hole and others on a branch.

Other birds such as the Turkey Vulture just pick a spot on the ground and call it home for their babies.

Some birds nesting habits drive them to build elaborate hanging basket style nests like the Baltimore Oriole.

There are birds that build their nest in burrows, in river banks or on the face of a cliff.


The instinct to bore holes is so strong in Woodpeckers they usually excavate a new hole every year.

Woodpecker pairs most often share the task of hollowing out the holes in trees in which to raise their young.

This provides a wonderful service to other cavity nesting species.

The next year another species of bird will use this cavity for their home.

We can help cavity nesters by erecting bird houses.

And some birds just seem to lay their eggs anywhere; on the forest floor, a rock cliff or the open tundra.

Gallery of Wild Bird Nests

cozy nestWarm, Soft & Cozy

Picture Courtesy of Jennifer Anne Grant

dried reed nestMade of Dried Reeds in the Marsh

great horned owl nestGreat Horned Owl Cavity Nest

nest made of twigsTwigs & Sturdy Grass

bald eagles nestBald Eagle Nest, Big & High

chipping sparrow nestChipping Sparrow Nest

stork nestBuilt on Man Made Structures

oriole nestOriole Nest, Sac Hung from Branch

turkey vulture chickTurkey Vulture Chick in Nest that Obviously Gets the Job Done

Attribution: Charolais at English Wikipedia

hummingbirdnestHummingbird Nest, Very Small

The picture series below provides an interesting look into the nesting habits of one species that is an architectural feat.

Who Raises Baby Birds In Bird Houses?

Baby birds such as Wren, Chickadee, Blue Bird are types of young birds that are raised in man made bird houses because their parents are cavity nesters.

Some larger birds like Owls require a larger structure and Nuthatches like a small cozy cavity with a small doorway.

There are also birds who will build their nest on a platform called a nesting shelf. Robins and Mourning Doves like to use these structures.

An interesting fact people don’t often realize when they first begin to take an interest in birdlife, is that some birds will not use a house for raising their young, but may instead only use bird houses to roost.

Sometimes people observe that no one seems to be building anything in their house that they have erected.

But they do notice some activity at times.

This may be due to the fact that some birds use bird houses as roosting boxes, for a warm place to spend the night.

This is very important in winter.

Several birds may stay in a little house over night using their body temperatures to give each other warmth.

Roosting habits of wild birds vary from bird to bird just as nesting habits differ from one another.

Don't forget there are always exceptions to any rule.

There are many stories of birds setting up a "nest" in a location to raise their baby birds that are not typical for their species. Robins are notorious for nesting in peculiar spots. So don't be disappointed if your neighbourhood Robin doesn't choose your nesting shelf to raise its young but instead chooses a quirky inconvenient spot to you! If this occurs nesting shelves can make great little platform feeders too.

What Happens Inside a Developing Bird Egg?

List of Things Birds Need to Build Nests

Natural Materials




pine straw






downy feathers



Man Made Materials Like:






bottle caps

What Birds Use for Glue

their own saliva


wedging sticks together

weaving twigs and grass

spider web

Here is an excellent variety of bird nesting boxes designed to attract many different cavity nester's and those who will use a shelf.

But if you prefer to make your own, see below for my top picks.

Purple Martins are Colonial Nesting Birds Who Rely Solely on Humans for Housing

Another interesting fact is Purple Martins are a species of bird which are solely dependent on people to provide their housing.

Their dependence on man made homes has evolved over the years due to generational imprinting.

Parents know best!

There has been a well spread fallacy spread about Purple Martins.

Many people have believed that Purple Martins eat an enormous amount of mosquitoes and are therefore good to have around.

But it turns out that is not true.

Herbert Kale set the record straight.

Kale said it was a Purple Martin House manufacturer who told that untruth to sell his product.

You can read about it in this article 

Purple Martins: The Bird That Relies on Human-Built Nests

published by

Barnacle Geese have an Intriguing Nesting Habit Too

The story of Barnacle Geese which nest and raise their young in Greenland and other arctic regions are not that unique, but none the less incredible.

They choose the most impossible location, very high on rocky cliffs where their young will be safe from predators, like the arctic fox.

But when the goslings are only 3 days old the adults call their young to jump from their safe, soft, downy lined bed to the ground below.

The drop is some 120m/400ft, so they can feed on grass, otherwise they will starve.

There are a number of other arctic birds which practice similar nesting habits where the young birds must plunge downwards at the call of their parents.

3 Quick Facts About Bird Nests

1. There are so many Pigeons in the world for a very good reason - they can raise as many broods as 8, in one year.
2. Bird nests are the most diverse and unique structures built in all of the animal world.

3. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest nest ever built by a bird, was a pair of American Bald Eagles in Florida near St Petersburg. It was 2.9 m (9 ft 6 in) wide and 6 m (20 ft) deep. When examined in 1963, it was estimated to weigh more than two tonnes (4,409 lb).

You can see some incredible photos of nests here.

Whatever method of preparing for and raising their baby birds a wild bird may undertake, it is a wonderful and fascinating experience to watch their nesting habits.

If you know the location of nests you would like to identify then use The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Nest Watch site for help.

Wild bird nesting habits are fascinating. Learn more below.

About Bird Housing

About Baby Birds Which wild birds raise their young in bird houses and what other ways do parent birds provide housing for their babies?

How to Attract Birds to a Bird House? It does take a lot of patience sometimes to reap the benefits of bird watching with bird houses in your backyard. Find tips for success here.

Are You a Wild Bird Real Estate Expert? Take the Bird House Quiz! Test your knowledge on birdlife real estate.

Types of Bird Houses

Gourd Houses are #1 Native North Americans were the first to craft gourds into bird houses to attract wild birds and studies indicate they are the #1 choice with wild birds.

Roosting Boxes for Bedrooms Provide valuable shelter for birds at any time during the year for night time habitation.

Snags/Dead or Dying Trees Provide many elements of the necessities of survival for wildlife, such as food, escape from predators, nesting sites, roosting spots.

Building Your Own Bird Home

How to Build a Bird House: The Right Way How to build a bird house that will actually be used requires a little knowledge but it is not complicated.

Building Bird Houses that Get the Movers Hired You can put up a bird home but will the birds like your location, is the style suitable for them or their neighbours?

> > Bird Nesting Habits can be Surprising

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