colored pencil and watercolor

In the spring of 2006 a pair of tenacious house finches built a nest in the front porch light fixture of my mother’s house. Watching the tiny female weave her intricate bowl of twigs piqued my interest in the diverse ways that birds create their nests and resulted in this series of drawings.



Nesting American Bittern
8" x 18"

The male American bittern chooses a nest site in dense cover on or near the water. Together the pair builds a nesting platform of marsh plants. When the brooding female senses danger she stretches her neck upward to blend in with the surrounding vegetation, often even swaying with the vegetation when there is a breeze.


Nesting Baltimore Orioles
8" x 12"

At the end of a drooping bough as high as 60 feet from the ground, the female oriole hangs upside down to weave her pouch-shaped nest of twigs and plant fibers. The nest is so securely attached to the tree branches that it will often survive gale force winds.



Nesting House Finches
7" x 9"

House finches often prefer constructing their nest in manmade structures such as window ledges or hanging plant baskets. The pair looks for a solid base under a protective overhang upon which the female builds an open cup nest of twigs and debris. The male feeds and serenades her while she incubates their eggs.






Nesting Summer Tanagers
7" x 9"

Summer tanagers usually locate their open cup nest of dry vegetation and grass high in a tree top, but they have been known to select a well-protected manmade structure as their building site. The female makes the nest and incubates the eggs by herself. The male stays nearby, often feeding her with bee or wasp larvae, their favorite food.


Nesting North American Ovenbirds
6" x 9"

Ovenbirds nest in forests with a deep ground cover of leaf litter, often preferring cavities between tree roots. Both male and female construct the nest over a period of 2 to 3 months. The domed woven grass structure resembles a dutch oven and is built on the ground, slightly sunken into the earth. A small door on the side allows the birds to enter but is invisible from above.


Nesting Tailorbirds
6" x 9"

The southeast Asia tailorbirds begin nest construction by bending a green leaf into a cone-shape with strands of spider web. With their sharp beaks they drill tiny holes along the leaf edges through which they lace plant fibers, knotting the ends to hold everything in place. The resulting living leaf pouch is strong, flexible, and waterproof.



Nesting Snowy Plovers
5" x 7"

Begun by the male during courtship, the plover nest is a simple depression scraped into the sand. Once the eggs are laid, both birds add other materials such as shells and seaweed and dig out any accumulated sand. The eggs are patterned to blend in with dry sand so that when the parents are absent, the nest is almost impossible to detect.


Nesting Horneros
7" x 8"

The male and female hornero construct a nest of clay reinforced with grass and plant fibers in a tree or the top of a post. The sun bakes the clay as the birds, using up to 2000 separate bits of clay, build up a domed structure that includes a narrow curved entry chamber. The female lines the inner nesting chamber with grass and feathers


Nesting Flamingo
6" x 16"

The flamingo builds its nest of mud, piling up one mouthful at a time until a 1 to 3 foot cone is formed with a shallow indentation at the top to contain a single white egg. The height of the nest protects the egg and chick from rising water that might wash it away and is cooler than the searing alkaline floor of the mud flats.

Nesting Mourning Dove
8" x 10"

The male dove gathers twigs, straw, and other materials to give to the female who builds it into a rather careless and flimsy nest. Although nests are usually constructed in trees, the doves will sometimes choose elevated sheltered areas of man-made structures.


Nesting Least Terns
6" x 6"

The least tern nest is little more than a shallow cup scraped in the sand, often surrounded by twigs, shells and other debris.




©2008 Mary Lee Eggart
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