Starfish, also known as sea stars by etymological purists, aren’t
We spend hours on Pinterest and wandering the aisles at Home Depot in an effort to make our tiny apartment or overwhelming McMansion the coziest, the best-built, the most-manicured, the best Pottery Barn-blessed homes on the block.
But we’ve got nothing on nature’s original nesters. Here are nine facts you might not know about how birds make themselves at home.
1) Even though the bird itself is about the size of a sparrow and is rather common-looking, the biggest nests are built by the weaver bird, which lives in the southern part of Africa. Using twigs and the occasional bits of cotton or feathers, these nests can house a hundred pairs of birds and take over entire trees– or telephone poles–with hanging baskets.
2) Not all birds build their nests in trees. Some claim a space for themselves out in the open. One such underachiever is the killdeer, who simply creates an indentation in some friendly-looking gravel and starts laying away. To protect its young, the killdeer leads potential predators away from its basement studio apartment by feigning a broken wing and luring the bad guy away from the babies.
Can you find the incubating killdeer in this decidedly low-maintenance nest?
3) Some birds have to make do where there are no trees and not even much gravel. In the American Sonoran Desert in the Southwest, giant saguaro cacti provide homes for desert birds such as the gila woodpecker. They drill right between the spines.
4) One of the most stunning aspects of a visit to the Kennedy Space Center is the realization that the earliest form of flight is conserved and represented there– the launchpads lie side by side with the Merritt Island Nature Preserve. Southern bald eagles have tended nests there long before the area became a launch complex. One enormous, occupied nest is visible to visitors on public tours.
5) A recent study at the University of St. Andrews showed that birds are pretty choosy when it comes to selecting nest-building materials. When offered a choice between flexible string and a stiffer type of twine, zebra finches opted for the firmer stuff. They wanted a sounder nest with fewer steps.
6) But some species want bling Where The Magic Happens. Male Great Bowerbirds in Australia and New Guinea don’t construct nests, but they do build bowers, then decorate them as wildly as possible to attract a mate. Pop cans, colored paper clips, bits of bottles, and shells are all used to entice the ladies.
7) What about tiny birds? Female hummingbirds build nests with soft, fluffy materials like lint, strands of cotton and hairs from leaves. She uses spiderwebs as the glue and carefully places seeds and bits of bark or plants to camouflage the outside, even using lighter materials in places where the nest will meet the sun. Hummingbirds use their wings, chests, feet, and even rears to press their little nurseries into shape. When finished, the nests are rarely larger than the size of a penny.
8) Most of us rarely see the inside of a bird’s nest. What we’d usually see in most species’ homes is a soft inner layer for the chicks to hang out and play Playstation, unlike the course, rough outside designed to weather the winter elements.
9) In Europe, some species of starlings choose plants for nests which possesses chemicals that discourage parasites. Others include bits of snakeskin to look tough.