Brain Pickings

Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them

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As home improvement shows continue to plague the primetime airwaves, photographer Sharon Beals offers a refreshing perspective shift in the powerful reminder that birds, with their incredible ability to build delicate and sturdy homes from scratch with wildly innovative materials, are the ultimate DIY homebuilding masters. In Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them, Beals takes a rare and intimate glimpse of these remarkably crafty creatures, drawing from the collections of the California Academy of Sciences, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley, and the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology to showcase the most astounding avian architects from around the world.

Swallows

During the 1800s, the mass killing of barn swallows for decorative hat feathers inspired one of the first organized conservation movements. Today, the barn swallow roams free, building nests from mud and twigs on the walls of barns, sheds, and bridges in North America, Europe, and Asia. This nest comes from Manchuria.

House Wren

House wrens are born into a do-or-die life, leaving the nest as early as two weeks after hatching, followed by their parents who take care of them as they learn to fly. Those who fail to take off are left behind and, without parental care, die.

Caspian Tern

Caspian terns parent on equal terms, taking turns incubating the eggs and feeding the hatchlings in nests that range from simple holes in the beach sand to elaborately constructed homes made of seaweed, pebbles and colorful shells.

Pine Siskin

Masters of camouflage, these cold-loving birds make their nests exceptionally well-hidden, beginning the mating and nesting process in the dead of winter.

House Finch

For house finches, courtship is a pregame aptitude test: The male pretends to regurgitate food, while the female imitates the begging behavior of a hatchling. Females are known for erecting nests in odd locations ranging from old hats to Christmas wreaths.

Stunningly shot and thoughtfully captioned, Nests is a poetic reminder of nature’s spectrum of creativity and scope of practical wisdom.

HT @paulrauber; images courtesy of Sierra Club

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