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How Do Birds Build Nests? How Long Does It Take?

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yellow bird building its nest

If you’re not paying close attention, it can seem like bird nests appear overnight. But how do birds make those nests, and how long does it take?

Different types of birds build their nests in different ways, and it even takes them different amounts of time, depending on the type of bird and the conditions. Since it’s such a fluid topic, we highlighted a few different strategies that birds use when building a home and a few expected timeframes for them to get the job done!

owl divider 2

How Do Birds Build Nests?

When it comes to how birds build their nests, the answer comes down to the particular bird that you’re talking about. According to Scientific American, different birds build their nests in different ways. Some birds intertwine leaves, grass, and twigs to build a nest. Other birds use binding elements like mud or saliva to build up the other materials and support the nest.

If a bird lives in a cold environment, they might use either method and then insulate the inside of the nest to help keep them and their eggs warm. They can do this by adding a layer of grass to the inside of the nest to help trap their body heat. If the bird lives in a warm climate, they might use rocks to help increase airflow to the nest, which keeps the eggs cool.

All this goes to show that not all birds build their nests the same way, and they’re quite innovative when it comes to building their nests!

crow nesting

Image Credit: KrisDurlen, Shutterstock

How Long Does It Take a Bird to Build a Nest?

While this number will vary from bird to bird, a bird can typically build a nest in anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks. It depends on many factors, including the environment and the type of bird, but even with the 2-week timeframe, that’s not too long for a bird to build a new home from scratch!

Does the Male or Female Bird Build the Nest?

This comes down to the specific type of bird and their mating rituals. For most bird species, the female builds the nest for the eggs, but there are exceptions.

For example, the male European house wren builds the nest to attract a mate, while with species like the downy woodpecker, both males and females take turns building the nest.

So, while there’s a good chance the female is building the nest in your yard, the male bird may also be helping out!

Do Birds Mate Before or After Building the Nest?

Nobody wants to have eggs and nowhere to put them! That’s why birds mate after they have a nest for their eggs. This way, they don’t have to worry about building everything up after they have fertilized eggs.

It’s also important to note that it doesn’t take long from fertilization to egg-laying, typically only a period of just a few days, so birds don’t have time to build their nests after mating.

dove nesting in the ceiling

Image Credit: redcube75, Pixabay

Do Birds Reuse Nests?

While you’ll likely see birds come back to the same nest year after year, chances are that new birds are actually reusing the nest.

It’s not impossible for the same birds to come back and use the same nest during a subsequent season, but they typically tear it down and make a new one.

Final Thoughts

Just because they don’t have hands doesn’t mean birds aren’t skilled craftsmen! Birds adapt to their environments and use their particular skill sets to build their nests, and they’ve certainly mastered the art. The next time you see a bird’s nest, take a closer look, as the finer details might just surprise you! 


Featured Image Credit: Emily Lewis Photography, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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