I just finished reading this fascinating article about how birds engineer their nests and how human engineers are learning from them. Apparently bird nests are unique in that they are extremely strong but still have a lot of give or flexibility – and are very difficult to recreate in a lab.
There is also the sheer variety of nest types! Check out these videos from Nature about different types of nests:
- Hummingbird: Surveyor, Architect and Builder
- A Nest Made out of Mud
- Make Way for Rare Ducklings
- Brush Turkey Mounds
- The Puffin Colonies
- Orangutans: Mother Knows Best
So do you think you could engineer a bird nest?
Bird nests generally have 4 main parts. First, a strong material gives the nest its shape and helps it withstand the wind and rain. Binders, such as mud, hold the nest together. Liners make the nest soft and warm. Finally the nest needs protection from predators either from camouflage, location or a protective structure.
What type of nest do you want to make? Watch the videos above for ideas and pointers.
Here are some questions to help you get started:
- What size and shape will you make the nest?
- Will the nest be tiny like a hummingbird’s or big enough for a kid like a stork’s nest?
- What materials will you need for strength, lining and protection from predators?
- Will you attach these to the nest by weaving them together, using a mud binder, or something else?
Make a sketch of your nest plan and collect materials. You can use leaves, twigs and sticks from outside. Or gather skewers, yarn and popsicle sticks from inside.
Build the nest and place an egg inside.
Is the nest strong enough to support the egg? Can it withstand wind and rain? Is the lining soft enough to protect the egg and keep it warm?
How can you improve the nest? Can you make it a different size or shape, or use different materials?
More nest building STEM challenge resources:
Build a Bird Nest from Scientific American/Science Buddies
Why the Humble Birds Nest is an Engineering Marvel from Popular Mechanics