The nesting behavior in birds is very specific to the species in question. Generally nests are made for one brood, and in some cases for only one breeding attempt. Should the breeding attempt fail for whatever reason, the nest is abandoned and a new nest built.
A common belief is that birds build nests to sleep in and for protection against bad weather. Generally this is not true however some birds such as Mannikins do build nests for protection. As mentioned above the nest is used for one breeding attempt and then abandoned. This is not the case with raptors for example that will use the same nest site for decades simply adding more nesting material annually.
There are many different types of nests that birds use. Some are elaborate affairs such as the weavers, others are simply scrapes in the ground used by many of the terrestrial birds, some nest in trees, some in holes in trees, some on cliffs and in the case of Batis’s they are perfect cups that the birds decorate using lichen to camouflage it. Some nests are very neatly built while others are messy and very unattractive to the human eye. Irrespective of appearance, nests are built for one reason only and that is as a receptor for the eggs – a place where the parents can incubate and protect them.
What exactly do the adult birds do during incubation? Birds’ eggs, unlike reptile eggs, need to be turned periodically otherwise they will die. They have to protect the nests and eggs from predators, snakes, other birds and in some cases humans, brood parasites such as Cuckoos and Whydahs, and to maintain a steady temperature essential for incubation – too hot or too cold will kill the eggs.
Once the chicks have hatched, but are still confined to the nest, the parents’ work-load is increased. They still have to protect the hatchlings, keep them warm and dry, feed them, and in most cases remove the waste from the nest. Fortunately most birds droppings are enclosed in a sac which the parents drop a short distance from the nest so as not to attract predators.
Dove’s nests are different! There is nothing attractive about their nests. They are an untidy platform of seemingly hap hazardly placed twigs concealed in a large bush. Because of this the faeces from the chicks are also not removed as they form a bonding agent for the twigs, gluing the nest together.
Many species are communal nesters such as sociable weavers, herons and egrets plus many of the sea birds. Others are solitary nesters as touched on above. Both types have advantages and disadvantages but the birds, being extremely cleaver animals, have decided which suites them best.
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