Found in the desert habitat of southern Arizona, around southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl is so tiny that it can easily fit in your palm! Because of its size, the owl can take advantage of the desert landscape and use cacti as its nesting place. Intrigued already? Holes in the cacti are usually already there, thanks to woodpeckers. Hence the owl doesn’t even have to make a teeny-tiny bit of effort to build a home.
Just like the pygmy owls, other birds, too, need nests. They build their own nests using a plethora of interesting materials available in nature, such as dry leaves, grass, mud, and more to lay eggs and protect their children. We will also look at various birds that don’t build nests or nurture their eggs in different ways or some that have really weird nesting habits.
Most hummingbird nests are so tiny that it’s easy to mistake them for knots in trees. In fact, did you know that the smallest nest in the world is the Bee Hummingbird’s nest? It is just over an inch wide. The hummingbird creates its cup-shaped nest by weaving spider webs with feathers and leaves to make it stable and stretched, then covers the outside with lichen (Lichens are a complex life form that is a symbiotic partnership of two separate organisms, a fungus and an alga). Even their eggs are small, each the size of a coffee bean.
The massive structure that these birds build might look like a hay stack to the human eye, but it’s actually a hive of nests. Similar to an apartment complex, it can house up to 400 Sociable Weavers birds. They are found in the South African or Namibian deserts and thus they create thatched roofs, which keep the heat out during the day and insulate from cold at night. Since these birds have been using the structure for generations, a nest can be 100 years old — that is, if its weight doesn’t break the tree limb first.
The nesting mound of the Australian Malleefowl is one among the biggest in the world. The record had been 15 feet high and 35 feet across, according to Guinness World Records. To create the mound, the male birds dig a hole and fill it with organic matter such as leaves, sticks, and bark. The male bird even turns the compost to speed decay, just like a gardener would do. When the compost heats up to around 89 and 93 degrees, the female bird lays up to 18 eggs on it, one at a time. The eggs are then covered in sand. But the surprising thing, despite all this, is that Malleefowl abandon their chicks as soon as they are born.
Black Kites in Europe have adapted to humans by decorating their nests with strips of white plastic. While some scientists have suggested that this is to camouflage the eggs, new research points towards the idea that the plastic is really there to show off other Black Kites.
Cuckoos all over the world fool other birds into rearing their young by laying their eggs in the other bird’s nest. They replace one of the existing eggs, so as to not arouse the host mother’s suspicions. The eggs of many species of cuckoo have also evolved to mimic those of the host species, which further serves their purpose to deceive the host mother bird. The young cuckoos hatch early and also dominate the brood by pushing other chicks out of the nest.
When a penguin lays an egg, the mother leaves her egg to return to water to feed. But before that, she passes the egg carefully to the father, who balances it on his feet. It shouldn’t fall onto the ice or else it can freeze. He then covers it with his brood pouch (a warm fold of skin) to keep the egg warm. The father has to take care of the egg throughout the harsh winter season. The father penguin has to keep the egg warm for more than two months until it hatches in Spring.
Do you know about other birds and their nesting habits? Tell us in the comments below.
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