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nest,structure for the reception and incubation of the eggs of birds, reptiles, insects, and some fish or for the parturition of mammals, and also for the care of the young during their period of helplessness. Chimpanzees, orangutan, and gorillas build nests to sleep in each night. Birds are the chief nest builders, exhibiting great variety and ingenuity among the different species. The type of nest depends on the environment and the condition of the young when hatched. Altricial birds, whose young are generally blind, naked, and helpless on hatching, usually build higher and more elaborate nests than do precocial birds, whose young have a downy covering and are able to move about and feed themselves soon after emerging from the egg. Most sea birds, shore birds, and game birds do not build real nests but lay their eggs directly on a rocky ledge or in a shallow depression scooped out of the earth or sand. Woodpeckers and parrots nest inside hollow trees, as do the Old World hornbills; the male hornbill seals the female into the cavity, leaving an aperture only large enough for him to feed her as she incubates the eggs. Sand martins and kingfishers dig tunnels into shore banks, with enlarged nesting chambers at the ends. The stork's nest is a simple platform of sticks, and the eagle's aerie, built in tree tops or on cliffs, may be 5 to 12 ft (1.5–3.7 m) in diameter; both birds add to their nests each year. As a general rule, the smaller the bird the more elaborate is the nest. Among passerine (perching) birds the male usually selects the feeding and nesting territory, while the female chooses the nest site. In many species the duties of nest building and incubating are shared. The nest is usually bowl-shaped and composed of twigs, grass, leaves, and (when available) bits of cloth and string; thrushes line their nests with clay. Intricately woven, pendent, arboreal nests give the American oriole its alternate name, hangnest; the Old World weaverbirds' nests are similar, with one species building immense communal structures housing up to 600 birds. Swallows, ovenbirds, and flamingos build nests of mud cemented with saliva, and an Oriental swift builds its nest entirely of a salivary secretion (used to make bird's-nest soup by the Chinese). The turkeylike megapode, or mound bird, of Australia leaves its eggs in a pile of decaying vegetation, which provides the heat to incubate them; it is the only bird to share this nesting method with the reptiles. Among the insects, ants, bees, and wasps are well known for their nests. Some fish (e.g., the stickleback) build nests of weeds. Most rodents (e.g., mice and squirrels) are nesters; rabbits line their nests with down, as do ducks and geese. The den or lair of the larger mammals (e.g., wolves and lions) serves the same function as a nest.
See P. Goodfellow, Avian Architecture (2011).
a structure built by animals for raising offspring, and less frequently, for protection.
Nests intended for reproduction are found among the most varied animal groups. Invertebrates make various nests: the octopus prepares a pit in the ground, surrounded with an embankment of rocks and shells; spiders make cocoons of spider web; leaf rollers make cocoons of twisted woody leaves; solitary wasps and bees make cells of earth bonded with saliva. Peculiar spun nests are constructed by the caterpillars of the pierid butterfly and the brown-tail moth.
The nests of vertebrates are also varied. The salmon buries its eggs in pebbles, the goby fish puts them in a nest made of stones, and the trident stickleback deposits them in a nest of seaweed. The Hylambates maculatus frog wraps leaves into a tube for its nest; the crocodile and the turtle bury their eggs in soil.
Bird nests are particularly diverse. Fowl and snipes have simple pits with scanty lining; gulls, merely a heap of plant residue with a trough in the middle. Many other birds build durable structures of cuplike form. Some birds native to the USSR (wrens, titmouse family) and many tropical types (particularly among the weaverbirds) have nests that are enclosed and circular, oval, or flask-shaped, with side entrances, and are frequently open at the end of an elongated neck. Bird nests are placed in a wide range of locations, and construction materials also vary greatly. For example, the swallow fastens pieces of earth together with saliva to make its nest, and certain swifts make their entire nests of saliva, which hardens on contact with air; inhabitants of southern Asia use these swift nests for food. Among mammals, it is chiefly rodents that make nests, and the most carefully done are the round nests made from grass blades and plant fluff by the harvest mouse; similar to these are the nests of the dormouse and squirrel. Beavers make their nests of branches and mud; muskrats use grass and swamp growth.
Most animals place their nests separately. Nesting colonies are peculiar to social insects, such as wasps, bees, ants, and termites. Their extensive nests with many chambers are very complex. Wasps have several single-staged combs, enclosed in a common cover of “paper” made by the wasps out of masticated wood fiber. Bees make their nests of wax, and ants of plant residue and earth. Termites construct enormous nests, as high as 7 or 8 meters, from earth and masticated wood. Nesting in colonies is found among auks, gulls, rooks, and herons, which place their individual nests in close proximity to each other in unified colonies. Some tropical birds, such as the sociable grosbeak, build nest colonies in the form of large structures in which individual pairs place their separate nests. Mixed nesting by separate species is a relatively rare phenomenon. It is found among red and brown wood ants, which live in a single nest, and also among eagles and sparrows; the latter sometimes make their nests in the walls of eagle nests. An extremely rare occurrence is symbiotic nesting, found among termites and ants—for example, aphids and other insects live in ant nests as symbionts.
Nests ordinarily serve for one reproductive season, but termites, bees, wasps, ants, and certain large birds which make their nests of branches return to the same nests for many years. In a number of species, nests also serve as places of protection—for example, for birds that build in hollow trees or build insulated enclosed nests, such as sparrows and wrens. The same is true of dormice, squirrels, and musk-rats. The winter nests of field mice, built under the snow, serve only as protection.
REFERENCESShvanvich, B. N. Kurs obshchei entomologii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Formozov, A. N. Sputnik siedopyta, part 3. Moscow, 1952.
Mikheev, A. V. Kak ptitsy stroiat gnezda. Moscow, 1968.
Zhizn’ zhivotnykh, vols. 1-5. Moscow, 1968-71.
A. V. MIKHEEV
What does it mean when you dream about a nest?
To see a nest or to be building a nest may indicate that a new home is being prepared or built. A strong sense of homemaking, or having the “nesting” instinct, occurs when a woman is pregnant. A desire to go home may be expressed by this dream symbol.