Recently I acquired a copy of a new, amazing bird book: Avian Architecture by Peter Goodfellow. As the title suggests it is all about how birds design and build their nests. It's fascinating. Just about anybody can marvel at the diversity of technique and the sheer ingenuity of our feathered buddies, but architects, crafters, and builders do take note. The book is organized by nest type: cup-shaped, aquatic, hanging and woven, mounds, and so on. Each chapter through writing and illustration details each technique while focusing on several species that employ that specific method. Techniques range from the beautifully complex, woven hanging basket of a Baltimore Oriole to the mound of stones that an Adélie penguin hords and lays its egg upon.
Speaking of orioles, the book helped me to identify a nest that my husband had found on a walk this spring as that of a Baltimore Oriole. You can see in the photos above that the nest is stitched together using a number of different materials. What's even more amazing is that the materials have been carefully selected and placed. There is an inner and outer layer. The outer layer consists of string, some type of black fishing line, and some shredded plastic-y material of the sort with which you would line an easter basket. The interior layer is entirely lined with finely woven grass or some other plant matter. All is stitched in to a surprisingly strong structure while also being delicate and light weight. Tis truly some of the finest craftsmanship I have ever seen in a functional object.
HERE's a NYT article on Peter Goodfellow's book.