What do birds use nests for? How do they build them? What can we observe in our own yards and neighborhoods as birds enter nesting season?
It’s that time of year! Many birds are gathering materials, starting construction, and even starting to care for their young around the state of Maine. Even in the midst of our cities, birds are nesting. To get us thinking about nests, watch this great Nature Moments Video by Nat Wheelwright.
Afterwards we’ll try making our own, either indoors, outside, or both! If you want a challenge, try using two tools such as pencils, Q-tips, or chopsticks to mimic (copy) a bird’s beak while building! Fingers definitely make it a little easier to construct. The video showed many of the materials birds use to build and hold together these cup nests.
Indoors or out, be considerate about what you gather to make your nest:
Questions to Consider:
- If you were a bird in this habitat what would you use to build the structure of your nest? What about in a different habitat, such as the edge of a pond or a marsh?
- What would you use to keep the nest warm and safe for your eggs?
Test your building skills: Place the nest in your yard or inside your home, somewhere you think that a bird might choose! Where would it be safest? Take it one step further. Find something to represent eggs and see if your nest holds up. Does it hold the eggs?
Take a Look Around—Quick, Before the Leaves!
In the Portland area, many trees are just on the cusp of “leafing out” for the season. Buds are opening and some have grown into light green, baby leaves, but they haven’t blocked our view of the branches yet! This is a great time to spot nests, either left over from previous years or just built this spring.
While a lot of our forest songbirds do build cup-shaped nests placed in trees, there are many other kinds of nest to explore. Check out this webpage from Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Celebrate Urban Birds project: Types of Nests and How to Find Them.
If you do happen to spot a nest, try watching it over time this season. Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Nest Watch is an awesome participatory research project (sometimes called community science) where anyone can record information about their local nesting birds. This project would be great to do with a parent, caregiver, or as a family group!
Reading: Weird & Wacky Bird Nests
This Ranger Rick article highlights some of the wackiest, most unexpected places some birds have chosen to build nests around the world. Have you ever seen birds using human structures like those shown in the article?
More to Explore…
Maine Bird Atlas – Learn more about how scientists and folks all over the state are working together to learn about Maine’s breeding birds!
All About Birdhouses – Interested in putting out birdhouses or making your own? Learn from Nest Watch all about the different types of birdhouses out there, and all the things to keep in mind when offering homes for nesting birds.
Our educators, scientists, advocates, and naturalists are committed to keeping you connected to the natural world as we deal with the coronavirus situation together. Check in every weekday on our Connections page for family activities, parent/teacher tips, backyard birding, nature exploration at our sanctuaries, and more.
Next Generation Science Standards
“Crosscutting Concepts” for all Elementary Grades in this module:
- Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
- Structure and Function
K Performance Expectations:
- Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive. K-LS1-1
- Construct an argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs. K-ESS2-2
- Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals (including humans) and the places they live. K-ESS3-1
1st Grade Performance Expectations:
- Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents. 1-LS3-1
2nd Grade Performance Expectations:
- Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats. 2-LS4-1
- Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose. 2-PS1-2
3rd Grade Performance Expectations:
- Construct an argument that some animals form groups that help members survive. 3-LS2-1
4th Grade Performance Expectations:
- Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. 4-LS1-1
NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Retrieved from http://www.nextgenscience.org/