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Birds of Australia - various types of nests


"bungobittah", "lar", "malunna", "jindi" [bundjalung] = nest [Aboriginal]

Birds in Australia (and elsewhere) build nests of various types. Here our attempt to describe the commonly used nest types.

There are a few basic rules, although often there are exceptions, too. Passerine birds use mostly basket nests. Many wader species (all of which are non-passerines) are ground-nesting, with most species using scrapes or bowls. Most parrots and cockatoos use hollows (but there are some notable exceptions here, too).

The number of bird species using other types of nests (e.g. mounds), modifications of one of the above-mentioned basic types (e.g. a tunnel as a particularly deep hollow) or no nest at all is small.

There are also rules about where and when birds will nest, not only based on their fertility cycle. Birds in Australia, for example, know not to nest in trees or shrubs that are flowering or about to flower. There would be too much traffic around the nest that is impossible to control and even many species specialising on feeding on nectar will not shun some protein in the form of another bird's chick(s).

Some bird species place their nests in hidden locations, such as the dense outer foliage of a tree or shrub. Others hide their nests in plain view in open country, usually using adaptable camouflage such as eggs with colours matching the surroundings.

Types of nests

Basket Commonly called "cup" or "bowl" nests; mostly made of interwoven sticks, twigs, grass and/or roots; usually lined with soft material, such as e.g. feathers
Mud nest One particular type of bowl-shaped nest, made from mud, often with an inner lining made of plant-based materials and/or feathers
Scrape/bowl Slightly indented or even flat area on the ground cleared of debris, often no materials are used to line or further camouflage the nest; many species use stones/rocks to create a ring around the scrape, creating a bowl
Hollow Cavities dug out of suitable material; in some cases this material can be very hard, such as e.g. a termite mound
Tunnel Particularly deep cavities dug out of suitable material; sometimes, but not always, dug into (near-)vertical banks
Mound Heaps of organic material used for slow incubation by means of heat created by fermentation
Tree fork Just a bare fork, otherwise no nest
No nest at all Some bird species actually do not HAVE nests...

Clustered nesting

Note that birds not only nest in colonies (of either one or more than one species), but that some bird species favour the proximity of others for protection. There is a separate page describing bird species nesting in clusters.