This edited article about birds’ nests originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 800 published on 14th May 1977.
Birds’ nests vary considerably, often to an amazing degree, in their shape, size and intricacy of construction. All these things, are, of course, governed to some degree as to where they are situated.
A nest is a shelter constructed by an animal for the purpose of rearing its young. The nesting instinct is common to a large part of the mammal world, but nest building has attained its highest development among the birds as a class.
Generally, the most elaborate nests are made by those species whose young are most helpless in the earlier stages of life. Where, as in game birds, the young are still able to run about and pick up food soon after being hatched, the nest is on the ground. Birds such as the finches, which may have many enemies, take the most pains to conceal their young, either by placing them in an inaccessible place, or by covering the outside with lichens, or other material to match its surroundings.
It is still difficult though to find a truly common factor when it comes to birds’ nests. Some make no nests at all, laying their eggs on bare ground or on a rock ledge. Others display a remarkable skill, weaving the most elaborate nests from grasses, or sewing large leaves together, using the beak as a needle, and bits of climbing plants as threads. Still others show great ingenuity in improvising nests under the most difficult circumstances.
In some of the barren lands of New Mexico, where no trees or shrubs grow, crows have taken to collecting bits of wire, etc., left by telephone linesmen, and constructing their nests at the top of telegraph poles with these, much to the annoyance of repair men when this results in a short circuit.
A few years ago a house sparrow in Regent’s Park was found to have made a nest entirely from matches and bits of matchboxes it had picked up in the park.
Then there was the case of an Essex housewife who left a £1 in an empty milk bottle to pay the milkman. The next day the note had gone, but the milkman disclaimed all knowledge of it. This led to some embarrassment on both sides until some time later, when the housewife happened to look into a blackbird’s nest in her garden, where she found the note lining the nest and held in place with moss and grass.
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