Do birds reuse old nests from year to year?
12 August 2010
Sent in by Judith Mower, Kessingland
Many birds, including swifts and swallows return to the same nest-site each year but most nests, found in trees and hedges, are seldom used more than once.
Even birds like blackbirds and song thrushes which raise several broods each year generally use a new nest each time. But they do save a bit of time and effort by dismantling the old nest and recycling some of the pieces for the new build.
The size, shape and complexity of nests vary widely. Some are hardly nests at all, just hollows formed by the body of the bird, or cavities in trees or amongst rocks. Others are intricately complex, woven structures composed of a large amount of material.
It is often the female who is the master builder but a well-known exception to this is the wren. The male wren works extremely hard building several nests throughout his territory then escorting his mate to view his handiwork and allowing her to choose where she will lay her eggs.
Twigs, moss, wool, feathers, leaves and even cobwebs are popular nesting material but one pair of birds, probably jackdaws or crows built a nest entirely of metal wire which was tightly woven into the traditional circular shape. Closer inspection revealed that they had included a metal coat hanger and spectacle frames for added interest.
With all this hard work you would think that nests would be used over and over again, but this is seldom the case.
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