Nesting

Found object, rotating assemblage. (84"maximum diameter (36" diameter of dense nest material) x 24")

Bird nests are wonderfully curious objects. I created this piece to celebrate the intelligence, mystery and beauty of the nest-building process. Twigs, grass, moss, feathers and leaves woven together with secret intent. Each nest tells a unique story known only by the incredible bird who created it, and by the nestlings it shelters and protects.

 

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Birds use nests to shield their eggs and nestlings from predators and bad weather. Birds will cleverly camouflage, hide or build their nests in hard to reach places to keep predators at bay. As important as nests are for bird survival, very little is known about the mysteries of the nest-building process. Instinct surely plays a role, but how much or how little? Bird nests are 3D extensions of a bird's mind. In the center of this piece is a large bird eye, constantly on alert, always aware of its surroundings. As I built this rotating assemblage, my mind was full of questions:

 

  • How do birds choose their nesting materials? By shape, color, density, size, pliability?

  • Why do some species of birds glue their nests together with saliva or mud while others dig or weave?

  • Is all bird saliva similar in stickiness?

  • Is the saliva of birds that glue their nests together different from the saliva of birds that weave their nests?

  • Do birds try build their nests with the same materials that were used in the nest they were raised in?

  • Do nest-building skills improve over time? Does practice make perfect?

  • Do birds learn building techniques from others in their flock?

  • If nest-building happens on a windy day, is construction put on hold?

  • Do birds choose their mates based on the quality and size of their nests?

  • Do birds search for materials in their established territory or do they establish territory based on available nest-building materials?

 

Time needed for various songbirds to complete their nests:

Species                                    Typical time to build nest                                   Reference                              

Least Flycatcher                                 5 – 7 days                                         Tarof and Briskie 2008

Loggerhead Shrike                             6 – 11 days                                         Yosef 1996

White-eyed Vireo                              3 – 5 days                                         Hopp et al. 1995

Clark’s Nutcracker                             5 – 8 days                                         Tomback 1998

Verdin                                                about 6 days                                        Webster 1999

Cactus Wren                                       1 – 6 days                                          Proudfoot et al. 2000

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher                 2 – 4 days                                         Farquhar and Ritchie 2002

Ruby-crowned Kinglet                    about 5 days                                       Swanson et al. 2008

Northern Wheatear                          2 – 7 days                                          Kren and Zoerb 1997

American Robin                                 5 – 7 days                                          Sallabanks and James 1999

Gray Catbird                                      5 – 6 days                                          Smith et al. 2011

Cedar Waxwing                                 3 – 9 days                                          Witmer et al. 1997

Yellow Warbler                                  4 – 10 days                                         Lowther et al. 1999

Eastern Towhee                                up to 5 days                                        Greenlaw 1996

Chipping Sparrow                             2 – 8 days                                          Middleton 1998

Scarlet Tanager                                  2 – 7 days                                           Mowbray 1999

Northern Cardinal                            3 – 9 days                                           Halkin and Linville 1999

Indigo Bunting                                   2 – 10 days                                         Payne 2006

Red-winged Blackbird                        3 days                                               Holcomb and Twiest 1968

Orchard Oriole                                   6 days                                                Scharf and Kren 2010

Pine Siskin                                         5 - 6 days                                            Dawson 1997

Time needed for me to build my rotating nest     -   6.5 days

Flock

Assemblage (42" x 42 x 32")

Birds will flock together to migrate, search for food and stay safe from predators. Murmuration, flying together in quick movements and patterns that seem connected and one-minded, is a phenomenon of nature that amazes and delights all who are lucky enough to see it. This piece was created to celebrate the mystery of the super-organism that is created when a large flock of birds travel together across the sky.

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