| Avian Architecture – How Birds Design, Engineer & Build | By Peter Goodfellow, Illustrated by Coral Mula | Princeton University Press | 2024 | Edition 2 | Hardback | 176 pages, 300+ colour photos and colour & b/w illustrations| ISBN: 9780691255460 |

The Publisher’s View:

Birds are the most consistently inventive builders, and their nests set the bar for functional design in nature. Describing how birds design, engineer, and build their nests, Avian Architecture deconstructs 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 more than 300 full-colour images and more than 40 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 food stores – are also featured.

Now with more case studies and an updated foreword, this revised and expanded edition includes intricate step-by-step sequences, visual spreads on nest-building materials and methods, and insightful commentary by a leading expert.

The Author: Peter Goodfellow is a retired English teacher and lifelong birdwatcher. His books include A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Britain and Northern Europe and Birds as Builders.

Fatbirder View:

Juist about my earliest birding memory is lying in my bed looking out above the window frame at House Martins building their nests on our eaves. Every minute or two a bird would hover or cling to the wall and deposit a globule of liquid mud to the growing cup… I watched as that cup grew and solidified into a home built in days with just a beak as a tool. I’d put my elbows on the window sill and follow their flights to the muddy puddle on a track opposite where they would land and scoop up the next dollop of building material.

Like most small boys growing up in the 1950s I would go bird nesting. We didn’t rob the birds of their eggs just peeped in to see if the nests had eggs or young. Sometimes a revisited nest required a knuckle to test for warmth and sadly find cold eggs abandoned, never to hatch. We became expert in ID from nests alone. A tiny cup of moss and grass wedged between an apple bough and garden wall belonged to the up-tailed bellowing Wren. A double fist-sized woven basket had to be examined closer… a mud lining meant Song Thrush, its absence betraying a Blackbird. We rode our bikes then lay in the long grass watching a wall of an old quarry where sand Martins borrowed out new homes each year. Undoubtedly the best finds ever were the nests of Long-tailed Tits. They were (and are) things of matchless skill and beauty. A woven ball of moss and feather, stalk and gossamer with an entry that flexed as mum or dad changed shift. In the winter when the leaves died back off the Old Man’s beard we would scramble into the hedge to retrieve these weightless marvels to proudly display on the ‘nature table’ at school. I recall the shock of seeing a collar-dove years later adorning the junction of two drainpipes with a meagre and loose collection of twigs seemingly too flimsy to support an egg, let along its own weight.

In later life I’ve been lucky enough to see other builders at work. Hanging baskets woven by Oropendolas. A veritable housing estate woven in an Acacia by Weaver Birds. Clay ovens baking in the Mexican sun; Owls squatting in last year’s woodpecker hole; a six-foot stack of an eerie and the leaf-sized home of a hummingbird. I’ve seen Burrowing Owls seemingly appearing out of thin air from their subterranean hideaways and even been lucky enough to find a twig arch woven and then adorned with the shells of bleached white snails and seeds in the outback.

I’ve always been amazed and delighted by the engineering skills of birdlife and am now much better informed about this wonder having only skimmed the surface of this book. It is well designed, beautifully illustrated and crammed with case studies. An absolute cracker of a book and a resource one could use to share the truth about how clever the bird-brained are!

Buy this book from NHBS