Skip to Content
Educational   >   Learn

Types Of Bird Nests: Different Shapes, Materials & Safety

Bird Nest

Bird nests are vital to birds’ lives, providing a safe and secure environment for their offspring. However, because birds have different nesting behaviors, it can be difficult to identify them if you happen to find one.

From cup-shaped nests to underground burrows, different bird species have evolved unique strategies to protect and nurture their eggs and chicks.

Read on to learn all you need to know about bird nests!


Why Do Birds Build Nests?

Birds build nests for one primary purpose, which is to have a safe and secure place for egg incubation and chick rearing. This can be done in a number of different ways.

Most birds line their nests with soft materials that offer cushioning and insulation. This allows the birds to maintain the correct temperature and level of humidity, which is essential for egg incubation and the development of chicks.

Bird nests also offer a level of protection when the brooding parent moves around on the eggs. Nests usually offer shelter and protection as well.

Most of them are built in places that shade the chicks from the elements, such as the harsh sun or drenching rain. The materials chosen for nest construction often help it blend into the surroundings and remain undetected by predators.

Related: Do squirrels eat bird eggs?

Since birds live in diverse habitats and climates, are of different sizes, and have their own place in the food chain, then their nest-building methods differ as well. This is why nests are of different sizes, in different places, and have different shapes.


Where Do Birds Build Nests?

Birds build nests in a wide variety of locations depending on their species and habitat. It also depends on their specific needs for protection, accessibility, and the availability of nesting materials. They build their nests in the following locations.

  • On the ground – some bird species, such as Emperor Penguins, don’t use a nest at all. Some, such as most shorebirds, lay their eggs directly on the ground into a slight depression with little to no lining. Other ground nest types include cups, platforms, and mounds.
  • Underground – certain species, such as kingfishers and Burrowing Owls, burrow underground or use tunnels dug by other creatures as nesting sites.
  • In trees and bushes – most passerines, including warblers and finches, build their nests in trees and bushes. Nest types include cup-shaped, platform, pendant-shaped, and other.
  • On cliffs and ledges – usually birds of prey.
  • In cavities and nest boxes – some bird species, such as woodpeckers, excavate cavities into dead trees. Other birds use already existing cavities or nest boxes.
  • In other artificial structures – birds living around urban, suburban, and rural settlements may nest in man-made structures.
  • On the water – includes species such as loons and grebes. It’s most often a floating platform of vegetation and mud.



Different Types Of Bird Nests

Cup-shaped nests

Cup nests are one of the most common types of nests built by birds. They are constructed by most passerines, some hummingbirds and swifts, kinglets, crests, and other bird species. These nests can be found in a variety of locations including trees, bushes, ledges, and even on the ground.

They are typically made of small twigs, grasses, weeds, mud, saliva, and in some cases, even spider silk. The interior of the nest may be lined with fine plant material and hair to provide comfort and insulation for the eggs and young chicks.


Pendant-shaped nests

Pendant-shaped nests are elongated pouches suspended from a single branch, with some birds incorporating more than one branch to offer more support.

These nests are often located on the outermost higher branches that have thick foliage to hide the nest and protect it from predators. The entrance to the nest is on the side, making it difficult for predators to access it.

Pendant-shaped nests are typically made of soft and pliable plant materials such as stems, vines, and grasses and are lined with softer materials like feathers and animal hair. Some bird species that construct these nests include orioles, weavers, and sunbirds.


Dome-shaped nests

Dome-shaped nests are completely enclosed roundish structures with a small entrance on the side, offering superior protection to the eggs and chicks. These nests are often located in lower bushes or even on the ground, where they are well hidden from predators.

The nest is typically made of pliable plant material such as grasses and twigs and is often reinforced with spider silk for additional strength. Lichens may also be used to provide camouflage for the nest.

Related: Birds that lay blue eggs

Some bird species that construct dome-shaped nests include meadowlarks, marsh wrens, and winter wrens. The design of these nests allows for effective protection of the eggs and young chicks, making them less vulnerable to predators and other threats in their environment.


Platform nests

Platform nests are large, flat structures that resemble a platform. These nests are usually found on the ground or in elevated areas such as tall trees, cliffs, or poles. It is built from layers of sticks, branches, dirt, and grass, and it has a shallow depression in the middle.

Platform nests are typically made by big birds such as eagles, ospreys, and storks. These birds require a sturdy and spacious nesting site that can support the weight of their eggs and growing chicks.

The platform design of the nest provides ample space for the birds to move around and also allows for an unobstructed view of the surroundings.


Cavity nests

Cavity nests are chambers in natural crevices such as trees, cliffs, and sometimes even cacti or insect nests. Some bird species, such as woodpeckers, can excavate the cavity themselves.

These nests are usually lined with soft materials, such as vegetation or feathers, and in some cases, wood chips from the excavation.

The size of the cavity depends on the species, but the entrance hole is no larger than it needs to be for the bird to get in and out. Birds that nest in cavities include woodpeckers, owls, trogons, some ducks, tits, chickadees, and more.


Floating nests

Floating nests are unique in that they are constructed on water and anchored to surrounding vegetation and reeds. These nests are most often in the form of a platform and are made of aquatic vegetation such as cattails and reeds, as well as mud. The structure is built to float on the water’s surface.

Floating nests are made by birds such as loons, coots, gallinules, and grebes, which are adapted to living in aquatic environments. These birds require a safe and secure place to incubate their eggs and raise their chicks, away from predators that could reach them easily on land.


Mound nests

Mound nests are an unusual and distinct type of bird nest. They are essentially large piles of nesting material that are piled up on the ground.

The shape of these nests can be either cone or bell-shaped, and the materials used depend on the species.

Some birds use soil, sticks, leaves, and even rocks to construct these mounds. In some cases, the accumulated rotting material emits heat that helps with the incubation, while in other cases, the birds build these nests to control the temperature inside.

Mound nests are constructed by such bird species as some flamingos, malleefowl, and horned coots.


Scrape nests

Bird eggs belonging to Killdeer

Scrape nests are simple and often bare shallow depressions in soil or vegetation on the ground that are used by many terrestrial bird species or birds in open habitats.

The scrape is just deep enough to keep eggs from rolling away. Some birds will add a lining of bits of vegetation, shell fragments, feathers, and small stones.

These nests are typically found in areas with little vegetation or where digging into the ground is easy, such as sandy or gravelly areas.

Many shorebirds, such as sandpipers and plovers, use scrape nests, as well as many ducks, terns, pheasants, and some other bird species. Since scrape nests are often exposed and vulnerable to predators, the parent birds must remain vigilant and use distraction displays to lure predators away from the nest.


Underground nests

Underground nests are unique in that they are built entirely below the ground’s surface. These nests can range from shallow caves to long tunnels that lead to a central nesting chamber.

The nests are dug into soft material, such as dirt banks, and some bird species, like the Burrowing Owl, use pre-existing tunnel networks as nesting areas. The nesting chamber of an underground nest may be lined with some softer material for comfort.

These types of nests are used by various bird species, including kingfishers, kiwis, great hornbills, barbets, burrowing owls, and more. The underground location provides a safe and protected environment for the birds to lay their eggs and raise their young away from predators.



Nest Materials

Birds use a wide variety of materials to build their nests, depending on their species, habitat, and availability of materials. This includes both plant- and animal-derived materials and in some cases even artificial materials.

Common plant materials include small branches, twigs, moss, leaves, bark, plant down, conifer needles, grass, roots, and others. They also use some animal-derived materials, such as fur, hair, and feathers.

If the birds live near human settlements, they may integrate various artificial materials, such as plastic strips, into their nests.

If you want to help birds with building their nests, you may provide all the above-mentioned natural materials in places where it is safe for them to retrieve. However, avoid leaving out any artificial materials, such as plastics, cellophane, foil, and others. These may prove harmful to the birds.


How to Keep Birds From Building a Nest?

Although delightful and lovely to look at, sometimes having birds’ nests near or at your home can cause problems for you or even the birds themselves. In that case, there are quite a few things you can do to avoid that, including making the area unhospitable for birds, using scare tactics, and bird repellents.

Birds prefer to build nests in places that offer suitable nesting areas, cover, a safe and quiet environment, food, and water. So, to chase them away, do the opposite.

Don’t put out bird feeders, hide your trash, and clean and open up your yard so they don’t have anything to hide in or forage through. You can also set up barriers that prevent birds from landing and constructing nests, such as setting up bird roosting spikes, installing protective covers on various cavities such as vents, and covering all the ledges so it is very difficult or impossible to land.

Harmless scare tactics are another option. Birds are always alert and on the lookout for predators, so you can install plastic figures of them. This is great because it doubles as decoration. Birds also dislike wind chimes and flashy objects.

As a last resort, you may use non-toxic bird repellents. Sticky coatings on ledges and other possible landing and nesting surfaces make it uncomfortable for the birds to land.

Slippery glaze coating makes it almost impossible for them to land and perch on roofs. Although pleasant for us, the smell of citrus and peppermint work quite well as bird repellents.


Frequently Asked Questions About Birds Nests

Why do different birds build their nests in different ways?

Different birds build their nests in different ways because their capabilities, protection needs, nesting material, and habitats differ.

How do birds make nests?

In a nutshell, birds use their bills and feet to gather materials and weave and place them together to form a nest. Depending on the species and the nest design and materials, the specific process may vary.

When do birds build nests?

Birds build their nests during the breeding season before laying eggs. The most common time for this is spring.

How long do baby birds stay in the nest?

Most baby birds stay in the nest for at least 1-2 weeks after hatching. However, this varies greatly from species to species.

What to do if a baby bird falls out of the nest?

If a baby bird falls out of its nest, you can either put it back in the nest or leave it alone, depending on how old it is and whether the bird seems unharmed. If the bird is injured or the nest is damaged, contact your nearest vet or wildlife rescue hotline.


Read next: What to do if you find a baby bird

About the Author

Heleen Roos

Heleen has loved the outdoors and nature since childhood and has always been fascinated with birds, leading her to research more about them. She has accumulated a lot of knowledge about their behaviors and habits through birdwatching tours and her own explorations. Her goal is to share the most interesting and useful facts about them.

Let others know your thoughts or ask an expert

Would you like to get new articles of birds (Once a month?)

No SPAM! We might only send you fresh updates once a month

Thank you for subscribing!

No thanks! I prefer to follow BirdZilla on Facebook