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Enclosed Nests

Enclosed nests are basically an extended cup nest where the basic cup has deeper walls and a roof, with an entrance hole. Domed or enclosed nests would seem to offer more protection for the eggs and young than a simple cup. In some cases they obviously do, and they also supply better protection from the elements, though there is not much scientific evidence to support the theory that they offer better protection from predators. As with all these categories of nests there is a gradient of complexity and quality among domed nests. The simplest have only a loose roof like those of the Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) or a separate roof constructed about the dome such as the nest of the Magpie (Pica pica). Wrens and Dipper build more solid domes.

 
A typical large Hammerkop nest in the fork of the tree. Photo by D. Nowell.

Many domed nests are very intricate and solidly constructed. They may be small and beautiful such as the nests of the Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus), which camouflages the outside with lichens and lines the inside with hundreds of thousands of feathers. The largest and most spectacular domed nests belong to the Hammerkop (Scopus umbretta). These birds build a huge dome of over 8000 sticks which can be 2 m high and nearly 2 m wide. This nest is easily strong enough to withstand a man walking across the top of it. They have a long entrance tunnel and are the avian equivalent of a fortress.

A more unusual example of a domed nest is the nest of the Rufous-breasted Castle Builder (Synallaxis crythrothorax), which creates a dumbbell-shaped nest with a tube connecting both chambers, only one of which is used to rear the young.

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Most information on this page was contributed by EarthLife.

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Last updated: 01 January 2003