Nesting

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

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

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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 to use 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:

Bird Species                                       Days       

Least Flycatcher                            5 – 7 days                   

Loggerhead Shrike                        6 – 11 days                 

White-eyed Vireo                         3 – 5 days                   

Clark’s Nutcracker                        5 – 8 days              

Verdin                                              ~  6 days                   

Cactus Wren                                  1 – 6 days                 

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher            2 – 4 days            

Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 ~ 5 days               

Northern Wheatear                      2 – 7 days          

American Robin                             5 – 7 days                 

Gray Catbird                                   5 – 6 days              

Cedar Waxwing                              3 – 9 days                   

Yellow Warbler                               4 – 10 days              

Eastern Towhee                             up to 5 days             

Chipping Sparrow                          2 – 8 days                   

Scarlet Tanager                              2 – 7 days                   

Northern Cardinal                         3 – 9 days                   

Indigo Bunting                                2 – 10 days                

Red-winged Blackbird                  3 days                       

Orchard Oriole                              6 days                        

Pine Siskin                                       5 - 6 days             

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

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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.

Assemblage (42" x 42 x 32")

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