Most people seem to think that the nests are birds’ permanent homes. However, these avian creatures do not actually live inside their nests, at least not all year long. Birds follow specific yearly cycles, which dictate where a bird would live at any given time.
As most of you might already know, birds are known to learn about a season by measuring the length of days. When the days are longer in the spring months, the hormonal changes in a bird’s body signal them that it’s time to breed. So, they build a nest, find a mate, and breed. All parent birds care for their fledglings for varying periods, after which they leave the nest.
By the time days grow shorter, the birds have realized that it’s time to migrate south to warmer climates and abundant food for the winters. Coming spring, they will return to their breeding grounds again in order to repeat the whole procreating cycle.
This annual cycle is common for migratory birds. The non-migratory birds that remain on their breeding grounds all year long might choose to breed in their same nest year after year and mate for life.
In any case, nests serve an important purpose for all birds despite the fact that birds don’t live in them indefinitely. Different birds have different preferences for building their nests, including location, shape, size, and so on.
For instance, some birds nest in tree cavities, while others are primarily ground-nesters. Some would choose to nest in large colonies, whereas others pick a cliff or rock to build their nest. The materials these birds use for nest-building also vary. In this article, we’ll discuss birds that build mud nests.
Here are 8 birds that build their nest using mud:
- Black-billed Magpies
- Barn Swallows
- Black Phoebes
- White-winged Choughs
- Spotted Morning Thrushes
- American Flamingos
- Purple Martins
It is also important to note that while these birds build mud nests, not all of their nests are constructed using mud solely. Some birds do build nests made purely of mud, but others might also use other materials they can find for lining the nest.
Below, we are going to learn about all the birds that build nest muds and discuss how they do it.
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)
Also referred to as the “American Magpie,” the Black-billed Magpies are a North American corvid species that reside in tree clumps and other open habitats within their range.
These magpies are easily distinguishable from the other magpie species by their shorter wings and longer tail. They have a black face, eyes, bill, chest, back, and tail, with prominent white and bluish patches on their wings and a white underbody.
Both sexes of the adult Black-billed Magpies have the same plumage; only the males are larger and heavier than their female counterparts.
How do Black-billed Magpies build their nest?
When it comes to nesting, both sexes of the adult Black-billed Magpies tend to participate in the process of looking for an ideal nesting site as well as the construction of the nest itself. Their nests are cup-shaped and appear like a dome from a distance.
While these nests are essentially built from mud, they also contain various small sticks, along with vines, bark strips, rootlets, and grass. Once the base is formed, they line its insides with softer grass and rootlets.
This nest is then covered with a loosely formed hood made from twigs and branches, which lends it a domed appearance, often with multiple, small side entrances. It generally takes these birds about 40-50 days to construct the whole nest.
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Known for being the most widely distributed swallow species, the Barn Swallows are highly aerial birds that have as many as six subspecies. These little birdies can be found throughout the Americas, in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Four out of their six subspecies are strongly migratory in nature, while the other two are resident. They’re primarily insectivores and tend to dwell alongside the human population.
The adult Barn Swallows are sexually dimorphic, with the males possessing a brighter plumage and a longer tail. Both sexes have a rufous-colored head, chin, and throat, a broad blue chest band, and a white underbody. Their tail is also blue and elongated, displaying a deeply forked appearance.
How do Barn Swallows build their nest?
Barn Swallows have been named after their tendency of building nests under the barns. These birds often look for a sheltered nesting site that can protect them and their babies against the elements of nature (sunlight, cold, and rain).
For this reason, you’ll often find them nesting under bridges, rafters, cliffs, eaves, and even other, manmade structures. Their nests are shaped like a cup. Both sexes work together to build them, a process that takes about two weeks.
Barn Swallows build their nests against a wall or another vertical surface for support and protection. They commonly use mud pellets and grass to make them, although occasionally, bird feathers can also be used. The top of their nests is always left open to give them a convenient place to move in and out.
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)
Belonging to the tyrant flycatcher family, the Black Phoebes are small passerine birds that are found throughout the Americas. They have six subspecies and are mostly resident, with only their northernmost populations migrating during winters.
The adults of both sexes share an identical appearance and size, displaying very little sexual dimorphism. Their plumage is mainly black in color, including their head, breast, and upper body.
On their breast, you can spot a bold white, V-shaped mark. Their lower belly and undertail coverts are also black in color.
How do Black Phoebes build their nest?
While male Black Phoebes help in searching for an ideal nesting location, it is the female that takes upon the nest-building job entirely. They will often build their nests in a place where they can find an abundance of mud since that’s the basic material for their nests.
You will often spot them nesting under the eaves of buildings, bridges, or cliffs. Their nests are shaped like an open cup; it is mainly cemented with mud but also contain other materials like grasses, fine plant fibers, and hair.
Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea)
Belonging to the family of the Australian mudnesters, the Apostlebirds are Australian birds that have been named after their tendency to always travel in groups of twelve, like the chief followers of Jesus Christ. They’re also known by other names, such as “Grey Jumper,” “Caw Bird,” and “Lousy Jack.”
The plumage of these birds is mainly dark grey in color, with a long, black tail that might display a greenish iridescence under the sunlight. On their head, neck, and breast, you can see touches of paler feathers, while their wings are brownish.
Their legs, feet, and bill are all black, while the eyes can be either brown or white. The adult Apostlebirds lack sexual dimorphism, with both sexes appearing identical.
How do Apostlebirds build their nest?
Just as their family name suggests, the nests of the Apostlebirds are made solely from mud. These birds have a peculiar breeding and nesting behavior, wherein they form a group of over ten birds, with a single male and multiple females.
Once the male breeds with a female, all group members work together for the construction of a nest. They choose to nest on large trees, on branches that are about 16-20 meters high from the ground.
Their nests are shaped like a large bowl made of mud. Once the eggs laid in these nests hatch, the group members also take charge of cleaning them and looking after the fledglings.
White-winged Chough (Corcorax melanorhamphos)
Just like the Apostlebirds, the White-winged Choughs are also members of the Australian mudnester family. In fact, together, these two are the only surviving members of their family.
The overall black appearance of White-winged Choughs often makes people confuse them with crows or ravens. In terms of size, they’re slightly smaller than ravens and larger than magpies.
However, it is their red-colored eyes and a downward curving bill that set these birds apart from the corvids.
These birds also possess the characteristic white underwings that can only be seen in flight. The adults are sexually monomorphic, with no apparent external differences.
How do White-winged Choughs build their nest?
The White-winged Choughs prefer to build their nest in the forks of large trees, with an ideal height of over 10 feet from the ground. Although it is unclear whether both sexes build the nest together, their nests are made of grasses that are held in place using lots of mud.
The nests of these birds have a deep, cup-like shape. Once the eggs hatch, all family members take turns in protecting the nest from predatory attacks.
Spotted Morning Thrush (Cichladusa guttata)
Also referred to as the “Spotted Palm Thrush,” the Spotted Morning Thrush are members of the Old World Flycatcher family that inhabit the African countries of Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
Spotted Morning Thrushes primarily inhabit savannahs, dry forests, and tropical shrublands. They have a dull brownish head and back, with a touch of rufous to their tail. Their underbody is mostly white, with white eyebrow stripes running behind their eyes.
Their breast is covered in dark streaks, along with the dark bill, eyes, legs, and feet.
How do Spotted Morning Thrushes build their nest?
Spotted Morning Thrushes prefer to build their nests lower than most birds, at the height of 2-3 meters above the ground. Their nests are built on thick tree branches and are primarily made up of mud, leaves, and grasses. Their inner lining consists of soft rootlets and bark fibers.
American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)
Also referred to as the “Caribbean Flamingo,” the American Flamingoes are North American flamingos, also found on the Galapagos and Caribbean islands. These wading birds are also known to populate Florida within the United States heavily.
The plumage of American Flamingoes is primarily reddish-pink in color, with the skin around their eyes being whitish. Their bills have touches of pink towards the base, with a bold, black tip.
While both sexes have the same plumage and height, the males generally weigh more than their female counterparts.
How do American Flamingoes build their nest?
American Flamingos typically lay only a single egg every year. These large birds are known to build their nest on the ground. Their nests are not so much a nest as a mound. Both parents prepare this mound together by gathering all the mud near the female’s legs using their bills. Their bills also help them in shaping the mound properly. Once ready, the mound is about 1 foot high.
Purple Martin (Progne subis)
Although the Purple Martins have “purple” in their name, the true color of their plumage is blackish blue. However, as sunlight touches them, they reflect a purple iridescent sheen.
Purple Martins are the largest swallows in entire North America. These aerial birds are migratory and have quite a remarkable flight speed. The adults display significant sexual dimorphism.
While the males have an overall dark appearance, their female counterparts are much paler in contrast. They have a dark head and wings with touches of steel blue sheen. The rest of their body is pale grey, with a white belly and rump. Purple Martins have three subspecies.
How do Purple Martins build their nest?
When it comes to building nests, both parents participate actively. Their nesting preferences are quite diverse, including cliffs, tree cavities, and even birdhouses.
Once they’ve found an ideal location, they gather nesting materials such as plant stems, straws, leaves, and grasses to build their nest.
Are you wondering what the role of mud in these nests is? Mud plays a crucial role, as the martins will use it to build a dam around their nest as a security measure.
Let’s wrap up. Because of its strengthening quality, mud is often included as an important building material in the birds’ nests. We discussed various birds that use mud as a primary ingredient in their nests, either solely or with other materials.