On this page the visitor will find photos (mainly) of BIRD NESTS (with or without their owners) and of BIRD HOUSES (further below). As fascinating as watching birds can be, their nests are also quite interesting. The location of the nest, the materials used to build it, and their size vary across the bird population. This page here describes the various types of bird nests found in Nature.

As they say in the real estate industry, location is of prime importance for a good quality residence. Birds are no exception, but for them the location of their nest is a high-stake undertaking. It can mean success in raising a new generation or failure to do so, when for example predators will raid the nest.
Bald Eagles and Ospreys are known to build huge nests, such as this one below.

Osprey near its nest on a tiny island near Abu Dhabi City – June 4, 2014 – Sjahanmi
Osprey near its nest, for scale, by Sjahanmi
Seabirds will build their nest on top or along cliffs on the coast or on small islands near the coast. Many of them establish colonies, which sometimes can be huge. Sometimes the colonies are ‘mixed’, with different species sharing the same space. Others will choose the top of trees for their colony.
A good example of the latter is the Great Blue Heron. Their colony is called a ‘heronry’. Herons need large and sturdy trees due to their size. They use the same nests year after year, and because of this eventually the trees die from guano buildup and the herons need to start a new colony elsewhere.
In addition to animal predators, the heronry is vulnerable to humans during the nesting season. If chicks are disturbed and fall off the nest, they can’t fly back up into the nest and the parents stop feeding them. They will either starve or fall prey to other animals.
The photos below show a nest by a Grey Heron (ardea cinerea) and some of those birds in a heronry in Japan. The grey heron is similar to the great blue heron and has the same nesting habits.

Grey heron near nest in colony, Tokushima, Japan - by Denise Motard
Grey heron heronry, Tokushima, Japan
Grey herons at top of trees in heronry Tokushima Central Park, Japan - by Denise Motard
Grey herons at top of trees in heronry
Tokushima Central Park, Japan
Grey heron, Kamo River in Kyoto, Japan - by Denise Motard
Grey heron, Kamo River, Kyoto, Japan
Here’s an example of a ‘mixed’ colony in New Zealand, on a tiny rocky island near the Kaikoura peninsula on the South Island, with a photo of the birds in that colony:

Spotted shags, Red-billed gulls and Black- billed gulls on rock colony, New Zealand - by Denise Motard
Spotted shags, Red-billed gulls and Black-billed gulls on rock colony, New Zealand
Black-billed and red-billed gull colony on rocky island, New Zealand - by Denise Motard
Black-billed and red-billed gull colony
on rocky island, New Zealand
Spotted shag juvenile, Kaikoura, New Zealand - by Denise Motard
Spotted shag juvenile, New Zealand
Red-billed gull on a rocky edge. From the amount of guano, it seems like a favorite hangout spot for the birds. Kaikoura Peninsula, NZ - by Denise Motard
Red-billed gull, Kaikoura, New Zealand
Black-billed gull ringed on both legs – Christchurch Botanic Garden – NZ - by Denise Motard
Black-billed gull, Christchurch, NZ
Nesting on the ground is a frequent behavior of birds, although fraught with risks. Most of the time the birds that nest on the ground do so in isolated areas such as small islands. Unfortunately, many such islands have been invaded by predators introduced by humans, notably rats, cats, and mongoose. Measures are now being taken to eradicate feral predators from those islands or other vulnerable nesting areas, for example at Kaena Point on Oahu, and on New Zealand.

Bank Swallows nest in colonies along shore banks or gravel or sand pit slopes, near the top:

Bank swallow nests – Red Point Provincial Park, PEI – © Marie Smith – June 29, 2017
Bank swallow nests, PEI, by Marie Smith
The Laysan Albatross and the Wedge-tailed Shearwater below are two birds directly benefiting from the large fence (with double doors) built at the Kaena Point Coastal Reserve in Hawaii to keep off rats, mongoose and dogs:

Kaena Point Coastal Reserve sign at the fenced and gated entrance on the north side trail. Oahu, Hawaii.
Kaena Point Coastal Reserve, Oahu
Double gate & fence at Kaena Point Coastal Reserve, Oahu, Hawaii. Note the device outside to wipe one’s shoe soles.
Double gate and fence, Kaena Point
Laysan albatross, Kaena Point, Oahu - by Denise Motard
Laysan albatross, Kaena Point, Oahu
Wedge-tailed shearwater, Laniakea Beach, Oahu - by Denise Motard
Wedge-tailed shearwater, Oahu
Other species of birds will use human-built structures to build their nest, or to build it close to them. In this, birds and humans can sometimes clash as their territories will overlap.
The Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) builds its nest inside the vertical wall of a chimney. The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) can build its nest near a house or right onto some house structure, such as this one who used a Christmas wreath. (I once had a nest of robins on top of a window frame of my house in Quebec.)
Birds can also use a rural mailbox to build a nest. [When I was living in rural Quebec, one morning I picked a pale blue egg with my mail, courtesy of a European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) that had started a nest inside the mail box.] These birds can also make a nest in the hollow pole of street lights at the top.
The Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor), in natural settings, builds its nest on the ground. However in cities it will settle on flat roofs with gravel. Unfortunately there is a decrease in these types of roofs, so this bird’s population also decreased accordingly.
The Barn Swallow (hirundo rustica), as its name implies, is well known for building its nest on and inside barns. However for lack of a barn, this swallow will readily use other human-built structures, as seen below. In this case the barn swallows nested on the ballasts of neon lights of a strip mall in downtown Tokushima, Japan, a city of around 250,000 people.
The Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) nest below was built on the ground under a hedge in front of the photographer’s house.
An interesting case is Lucy the Duck, an American black duck who has consistently built her nest over several years among the plants for sale at the Atlantic Superstore nursery in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. It’s a sheltered protection from predators, and the nursery staff are helping shield her from visitors as well. Every year a special police patrol helps her and her ducklings cross the busy University Street to the other side, where she lives in a nearby marsh (see video below).

Barn swallow nest - Tokushima, Japan - © Denise Motard
Barn swallow nest, Tokushima, Japan
Barn swallows starting a new nest -Tokushima, Japa - by Denise Motard
Barn swallows on nest, Tokushima Japan
This is where the swallows make their nests. They choose the ballast joints of the neons, likely because it gives them a little more space and heat. Tokushima, Japan
Strip mall with barn swallow nests, Japan
American robin on nest under a house deck – Summerside, PEI – June 21, 2017 – © Marie Smith
American robin on nest under a house
deck, PEI, Canada, by Marie Smith
Song Sparrow nest – Summerside, PEI – June 2016 – © Marie Smith
Song sparrow nest, by Marie Smith
American robin nest with eggs, PEI, Canada, by Kathy McCormack
American robin nest with eggs, PEI,
Canada, by Kathy McCormack
Lucy the American black duck on her nest - PEI, Canada, by Denise Motard
Lucy on her nest

 This tendency for some bird species to use human-built structures or a natural cavity for nesting has contributed to the development of a bird house ‘industry’. Building a bird house can be a popular hobby for a school project or a family, or a full time job for some enthusiasts. There’s all kinds of models and plans available in terms of materials, size and number of ‘units’, and which bird species they are intended for. Some models are affordable and easy to build, while others are more complicated and expensive. There are a few points to consider when buying or building a birdhouse:
You or the birds? Are you buying/building that birdhouse primarily to match with your landscaped backyard, for example, or are you first ensuring the birdhouse will meet the needs of the species you’re trying to attract? (Good planning could achieve both goals.)
What birds? Many bird species nest in cavities and will readily use human-built houses if available. However each species has its own needs in terms of size, location, etc. What are the bird species around your area? Which one(s) do you want to attract with a birdhouse?
Once you have identified the species you want to attract, then it’s a matter of choosing the appropriate materials, house size, location (safe from predators including the house cat) and other needs for that bird species.
Here are some sources of information on birdhouses (that website also shows links to many other birdhouse related topics) :
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is an authoritative source of information for all things birds including bird houses:
One particular case of this human contribution to bird nesting is the building of platforms at the top of poles for birds of prey such as eagles and ospreys (photos below). Some of those birds are also known to build a nest on top of electrical poles (see photo below), a less desirable location as the birds risk electrocution and humans risk power outages.

Eastern Bluebird pair on nest box – July 1, 2017 – Kmac
Eastern bluebird pair on nest box
Osprey nest on man-made platform - Wood Islands Lighthouse – PEI, Canada - by Denise Motard
Osprey nest on platform, PEI, Canada
Osprey nest on de-energized electrical pole, PEI, Canada - by Denise Motard
Osprey nest on electrical pole, PEI
Red-tailed hawk unfinished nest on electrical pole, PEI, Canada - by Denise Motard
Red-tailed hawk nest on electrical pole
Blue Jay on bird house near O’Leary, PEI – Feb. 9, 2018 – © Jodi Arsenault
Blue jay on bird house, PEI, Canada