Bird keeper Eric Lutomski guest blogs on ZooHoo!
Everyone knows birds build nests, but not everyone realizes just how many different kinds of nests there are! Nests can be as small as a teacup or as large as a dinner table and can be plainly out in the open or carefully hidden away.
Nests are constructed from all sorts of materials like carefully woven fibers or large tree limbs. Sometimes birds use even unusual materials, like saliva for glue or spider webs for camouflage. Many birds don’t make nests out of anything at all—their eggs are instead laid in burrows underground, inside a hollow tree or log, or even on a well-shaped ledge of rock.
Here at the Dallas Zoo, letting birds build their nests is a very enriching and stimulating experience. It lets the birds perform their natural behaviors like location selection, material gathering, and nest construction.
In many species, building the nest is part of courtship between males and females and is important for breeding success. Ideally, all birds at the Zoo would be able to build their own nest, but sometimes they get a bit of help from the zookeepers. It can be anything from extra grass or sticks to mesh platforms for support structures. We want to ensure that eggs or chicks don’t fall out of the nests.
Large birds like vultures, eagles and storks don’t like to nest on the ground, so keepers provide them with elevated platforms and lots of sticks of many shapes and sizes that the birds can weave together to form their nests.
Songbirds and other small birds, like jays and pigeons, prefer their nests to be bowl shaped.
Many birds like hornbills, lorikeets and cranes nest in tree cavities or other secluded locations like burrows or tall grasses, so keepers provide boxes for them so they can nest in privacy.
So next time you visit the Zoo, take a careful look! Is there a nest hiding in any of the exhibits? Where are they? What birds might be using them? Remember that you can take this knowledge home with you and build your own nest box for the birds in your neighborhood. (Bird Houses are nest boxes, too!)