Female birds lay eggs in which their offspring develop until they are ready to hatch. Other animals like turtles and crocodiles also do this.

 

Even mammals, the group to which humans belong – include egg layers (the echidna and platypus).

There is a good reason why all bird species lay eggs, and it relates to their flying way of life. It would be difficult or impossible for a bird to fly or take off if it was carrying a large baby inside its body (as most mammals do) because of its weight, so birds offload their eggs as soon as they can. But this presents a problem: how do they keep them safe from the many animals that like eating eggs?

 

The answer, of course, is nests.

 

Most songbird nests are cup-shaped and are constructed with sticks, twigs, grass, vines or mud, or a combination of these materials.

 

However, many Australian songbirds build almost circular domed nests with a side-entrance.  Some species are skilled at weaving grass to make nests, and others actually stitch leaves together by making holes with their bills and pulling grass through them.

Australasian Figbird by Greg Nye. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International

Willy Wagtail by Neil Humphris. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International

Many birds, such as parrots and owls, nest in holes in trees, while others, such as seabirds and bee-eaters, dig a tunnel in the earth, and make a platform of grass or woodchips at the end of it.

And finally many shorebirds, such as the Plovers, do not make a nest at all, preferring to lay their eggs on the ground where they seem quite vulnerable. But such birds will physically attack potential nest robbers when they approach, or use distraction displays to lure them away

Little Penguin by Francesco Veronesi. CC NY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia

Parent birds must sit on the eggs (called “incubating”) to keep them from getting cold, and this usually takes around two weeks for songbirds, but up to two months for bigger birds.  

When chicken or plover eggs hatch, the chicks emerge covered in down, and are ready to run away and feed for themselves. However most songbird chicks are naked and blind – like human babies – when they hatch, so their parents must sit on them (called “brooding”) to keep them warm for 2 weeks or more.

Text © Richard Noske 2019 CC BY-NC-SA

Killdeer protecting her Nest by USFWS Midwest Region.  CC BY  2.0 via Wikimedia

More nice nests

from Australia and other places

Trichoglossus moluccanus at_nest,_Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Australian White Ibises nesting at Coolart Wetlands, Mornington Peninsula, Australia.
Young but almost grown-up swallows that haven't tried flying yet, waiting to be fed.
Rufous hornero or Red ovenbird (Furnarius rufus) and nest, the Pantanal, Brazil
Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) at Parc de Woluwe, Brussels, Belgium.
A nesting pair of rainbow lorikeets emerge. They are very pretty birds in the morning light
Palm nut vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) on nest, Kazinga Channel, Uganda
Cliff Swallows in Cayucos, California, USA. The nests were built on the bridge over Cayucos Creek.
Nesting boxes intended for use by the Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster)
Grey Butcherbird. Boondall Wetland Reserve. Brisbane
Magpie nest on utility pole, in Ōdakuma, Kawasoe, Saga.
A male Blue-winged Parrotlet (Forpus xanthopterygius) looking out from a nest in the Vale do Ribeira
Bird nest, beach, Rhodes
Bird nest, beach, Rhodes
Bullfinch Nest
American Robin on nest
Taveta Golden-weaver (Ploceus castaneiceps) nest, Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida.
Sula nebouxii (blue-footed booby) nesting on North Seymour Island
Nesting Galahs - Back yard
A Bird's nest at Yelagiri, India
Mute Swan on nest
Adelie Penguin
A stork nest on an ancient chimney. Village of Hărman, Romania.
Three Snowy Plover eggs in a nest on the beach at Silver Strand Training Complex, San Diego County,
Male watching chicks hatch - Virginia NT Australia
Australian Brush turkey on it's mound. Kansas City Zoo
A redtail hawk nests on the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area
Chat nest, Muloorina
Nest, Rainbow Lorikeet
Nest. Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Magpie Lark
Bush Stone Curlew
Red-capped Robin nest, Baladjie Rock
Brown Treecreeper. Moama
Chough at nest, Burra Creek, South Australia
Raptor nest.

Except where otherwise noted, text for individual bird species is the copyright of Richard Noske and licensed CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International

Learning Sequences and related Student Activity Sheets are the copyright of Marie Bermingham and Val Catchpoole and licensed CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International

All audio is used under Creative Commons licences as noted.

Except where otherwise noted, all illustrations are the copyright of Elissa Kimber, all rights reserved.

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