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Simple Nests

Simple nests are constructed of either plant material, normally sticks or stones. They are quite common and like no nest nesters all the birds that use them are non-passerines. The best example of a simple stone nest is that of Adelie Penguins. The nest is basically a mound of stones which serves as protection against flooding. Most simple nests, however, are made of sticks and twigs built into a simple platform, which though it may have a depression in the middle and be quite extensive does not really have an inside and outside.

A common example of a simple platform nest are those constructed by many doves and pigeons. Those, like that of the Ruddy Quail Dove (Geotrygon montana), are often a simple lattice with just enough twigs to support the egg. In these cases the egg can often be seen through the nest from beneath. Sometimes a flimsy lining of grass and rootlets may be added and in some cases the lining may be more complete. Another bird which builds a simple platform is the Hoatzin from S. America. Another well known example of a platform nest and one which is more substantial than a pigeon's is that of the European White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) which has for centuries nested on chimneys and specially erected platforms across Europe. More complicated than the previous nests, it consists of sticks interwoven then plastered to some extent with mud. A depression in the middle is often lined with grass or paper.

Mute Swans' (Cygnus olor) nests are an example of a different form of simple nest construction. No material is carried to the nest. Instead, once the site is chosen and the vegetation flattened, the eggs are laid and the female swan builds up the nest around her by dragging material within reach to her so that eventually it forms a rampart around her.

Other birds which build simple nests include many gulls and herons. The most spectacular nests in this category are those built by various eagles. Most build in trees and the nests of the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in N. America can be so heavy that they damage the tree supporting them. The largest nests on record, however, are those of the Golden Eagle
(Aquila chrysaetos), which tend to build a new nest on top of the previous year's nest, resulting in huge structures often containing more than a ton of material. Fortunately, Golden Eagles prefer rocky alpine crags as nest sites which can often support these massive structures more easily than a tree. Golden Eagles are known to adorn their nests with sprigs of green boughs throughout the nesting season, well after the young have hatched. Many of the foremost researchers believe that this is evidence of a rudimentary aesthetic sense.

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Most information on this page was contributed by EarthLife.

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Last updated: 01 January 2003