Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer & Build

Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer & Build

Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer & Build

Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer & Build


Birds are the most consistently inventive builders, and their nests set the bar for functional design in nature. Avian Architecture describes how birds design, engineer, and build their nests, deconstructing all types of nests found around the world using architectural blueprints and detailed descriptions of the construction processes and engineering techniques birds use. This spectacularly illustrated book features 300 full-color images and more than 35 case studies that profile key species worldwide. Each chapter covers a different type of nest, from tunnel nests and mound nests to floating nests, hanging nests, woven nests, and even multiple-nest avian cities. Other kinds of avian construction--such as bowers and harvest wells--are also featured.

Avian Architecture includes intricate step-by-step sequences, visual spreads on nest-building materials and methods, and insightful commentary by a leading expert.

  • Illustrates how birds around the world design, engineer, and build their nests
  • Features architectural blueprints, step-by-step sequences, visual spreads on nest-building materials and methods, and expert commentary
  • Includes 300 full-color images
  • Covers more than 100 bird species worldwide


The book is divided into thematic chapters, each of which explores the architectural characteristics and individual variations of a particular type of nest. The evolutionary pattern of nest building is debated, but it is clear that nest evolution can be very rapid—as demonstrated by the different forms that can be found within one family. The nest is dependent upon, and adapted to, the habitat in which birds attempt to survive and reproduce. While this work cannot claim to be encyclopedic, it can explore how different species have evolved common architectural and engineering techniques to adapt their nests to the substrate and available materials. It is the architectural ability of birds to build a variety of nest types that has enabled them to diversify into so many habitats—from the desert to the Antarctic, from high in trees to underground, from open ground to out on the water—and which creates some of the best engineered structures in the natural world.

How the book works

Each chapter begins with an overview of a specific nest type, outlining key structural characteristics and building methods, and identifying the varied bird families and species that construct a specific type of nest. The different families associated with a nest type will often share little or nothing else in common. They may vary greatly in size, habitat, courtship, and rearing behavior; and yet, in the matter of nest construction they find common ground.


Following each chapter’s introduction, the architectural characteristics of specific forms of the nest type are presented as “Blueprint” drawings. These annotated illustrations show the structure, shape, and dimensions of archetypal nests, while also highlighting specific architectural elements. In addition to providing a unique perspective on nest construction, and to suggesting variations within the nest type, the Blueprints also help to place the nest type in the context of different habitats.

Materials and features

The Materials and Features pages each offer a close-up study of the nest of an individual species. Illustrations and accompanying photographs depict unique features. These include camouflage; how construction has been adapted to habitat; characteristic and occasional materials; and, where appropriate, how we have imitated nature in our own architecture—a process known as biomimicry.

Building techniques

The Building Techniques pages study unique and remarkable construction skills—such as the stitching and weaving of some passerines—through step-by-step illustrations. They are, as such, a celebration of the diverse ingenuity and great dexterity of the finest of avian architects and builders.

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