• Claire Stott

Nature’s architects: Part 1

Spring is a busy time of year for Britain’s birds as they begin to construct their nests ready to safely incubate their eggs and rear their chicks in the weeks to come. It often isn’t hard to find signs of nesting activity and once you start looking you can spot birds gathering nesting materials everywhere. Here are some recent photographs of my local birds in action:

Nest construction begins with sticks, twigs or branches which will provide strength and support the weight of the birds in the nest.

This pavement was littered with fallen sticks and bark which seemed out of place, so they had quite likely been dropped by birds nesting in a cavity nearby. Sure enough after a little patience, a starling flitted down from the roof above to gathered up the debris.

The jackdaw, being a much heavier bird, requires a more robust stick for her nest. These birds nest in a variety of locations from trees to cavities and crevices in our homes, with chimneys particular favourite.

Jackdaw nests can be surprisingly large and this sometimes results in the chimneys becoming blocked. With the size of stick this jackdaw was collecting it’s easy to see why!

A pigeon too relies on sticks to form the basis of it’s nest, in fact a pigeon nest is little more than a flimsy platform of sticks, usually on a ledge hidden out of sight.

Surprisingly it is the male pigeon who puts in all the hard work, collecting the nesting material whilst the female stays to protect the nest site. After deftly picking through the debris swept up on the harbour slipway, this male looked particularly proud of his chosen stick.

The house sparrows have no need for sticks, with this particular flock choosing a bramble patch for their nests. They gather strands of dried grass and bark with which they will weave a rather untidy dome shaped nest concealed among the branches.

The jackdaws also pluck this same dried grass from the banks to stuff into their stick lined nest cavity.

With the main supports built, the birds then turn their attention to the soft furnishing, collecting a wide range of materials to line the nest including moss, feathers, mud, leaves, grass, animal hair, seaweed and even man made materials.

A female starling collecting a fallen leaf

A jackdaw collecting very fine strands of bark

A herring gull with a beak full of seaweed

Jackdaws, like all corvids are highly opportunistic and will use both natural and man made materials in their nest building. This pair were intrigued by some paper or tissue blowing around in the wind and together tore it up into more manageable pieces.


This is not the first time I have seen the jackdaws here taking advantage of our litter. Here is another similar encounter from a couple of years ago.

Feathers provide ideal soft cushioning and insulation for the eggs and whilst many birds will pluck their own feathers for this purpose, they will also readily collect any fallen feathers they can find on the ground.

Both male and female house sparrows also gather these tiny white down feathers dropped by other birds feeding in the area.

After several failed attempts to capture this behaviour, I finally achieved some of the shots I was aiming for.

All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2019 © www.greyfeatherphotography.com

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#outdoors #birdwatching #britishbirds #nesting #spring #birds #birdbehaviour #nestingseason #birdphotography #starlings #housesparrows #jackdaws

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