Bird nest activities are a great way to introduce children to natural materials and the importance of these fragile environments. Let’s start with a quick primer on why learning about bird nests is so valuable, and how students can make connections to the natural world with nest-related activities.
The Science Behind Bird Nests
The most important reason birds build nests is to offer a safe environment for laying eggs and their young. In the United States and into Canada, we can use bird nests to identify different bird species.
Some desert birds burrow into holes in the ground as a way to keep their eggs warm and hide their nests from predators. These are similar to cavity nests found inside tree trunks, a popular hiding spot for woodpeckers. Shorebirds like ducks make depressions on the ground with sticks and leaves as camouflage.
Cupped nests are found in trees, bushes, or urban areas like overpasses. These are likely what we envision when we think about bird nests. These are nests built from natural materials available to birds around us.
Bird Nest Activities & Crafts
Invite students to think like a bird and connect what they know about natural environments to the science behind building a nest. Pose questions about materials birds use in different habitats. Do they need to be waterproof? Should they withstand windy conditions? Eventually, your students will begin to see the nests as the architectural marvel that they are. You can even incorporate these into PLT activities like Home Tweet Home from Trees & Me or Birds and Bugs from Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide.
Let’s take a look at activities that explore bird nests in unique ways.
Nature Walk Nest Building
Take students on an impromptu nature walk to find bird nests in their local environment. That will get them thinking about what they should look for when building their own ideal nest. On the same trip or a follow-up, students can collect natural materials to build their own nests and answer questions about materials that were most useful.
Reverse Engineering a Bird’s Nest
This activity involves taking a closer look at a bird’s nest from the inside out to learn about materials used in building that nest. You’ll need to do some legwork to make sure it’s legal to touch inactive or abandoned bird nests in your area. Your local chapter of the National Audubon Society is usually a good place to start.
How Do Birds Make Nests?
Use available children’s books about birds and nests to spark curiosity in your students around materials they’d use to build their own nests. Have them brainstorm their ideas before taking them outside to hunt for their ideal building materials. Compare what they’ve seen in their classroom library vs. what’s actually available to them outdoors.
Bird Nest Build
This link will take you to a variety of sensory activities and lessons that focus on fine motor skills in little ones. The bird nest build allows students to get creative in making their own nests using real images of different nests as inspiration. Choose local bird populations for deeper connections. Pipe cleaners and other art materials can stand in for sticks and leaves as needed.
The Best Nest
Connect literacy to a hands-on STEM activity with this activity on building a bird’s nest. The lesson uses the classic children’s book The Best Nest by P.D. Eastman to inspire children to think about supplies they’d need to build a good nest. Older children may want the challenge of investigating how the completed nests stand up to heat, wind, and movement.
Weaving Natural Materials
Birds are natural weavers. Have students compare a bird’s nest with woven attempts of their own in this activity that works fine motor skills. Softened palm fronds, long grasses, or other flexible materials work best for this activity. Students that find this challenging may benefit from larger pieces of material, or a classroom buddy to help with the weaving.
Use a nature walk or available classroom resources to learn about bird habitats before introducing a craft using burlap to help students create bird nests of their own. Additional activities in this thematic unit include whole-group reads of books about birds and nests and tree painting.
Bird Nest Centers
Turn nest building into a hands-on center in your classroom. Natural materials are great, but for less mess and effort, simple craft materials like shredded paper, faux feathers, and yarn can work just as well. Remind students that birds in urban areas use all kinds of found materials in their own nests.
Paper Bag Bird Nests
This art activity is a fun way to welcome spring. Create bird nests using shredded paper from brown paper lunch bags, Mod Podge, cling wrap, and whatever bowls you can find. Use completed bowls for decorated eggs or treats that students can bring with them once they’re all done.
Balloon Bird Nest Craft
Use balloons as your mold for decorative nests covered in shredded paper, feathers, and other available materials. Keep colors natural for more realistic nests or use colorful materials for a more whimsical take. You will be popping the balloon before this activity is done, so keep that in mind for children who may be sensitive to loud noises.
DIY Recycled Bird Nests
This very eco-friendly bird’s nest activity uses recycled or recyclable materials to create nests made of shredded paper. Any paper is fine. In fact, students can provide the paper from home by scavenging for old newspapers, magazines, even junk mail to personalize their project. Have them think like birds and use what’s available to them.
Bird Nest Snack
Little ones will love the end goal for this activity: a delicious snack! Use edible materials like pretzels and shredded carrots to create bird nests made entirely of things your students can eat. Keep it to healthy ingredients with any food sensitivities in mind. Crunchy fried onions are a great substitution for chow mein noodles if those are hard to find.
Edible Nests & Math Fun
This similar edible nest activity uses sweeter treats as the base for a delicious snack when all of the hard work is done. (The “mud” is a peanut butter and chocolate blend, so you know students will feel motivated with this one!) Before indulging, have the students complete simple math problems using marshmallows as eggs.
Chalk Art Nest Craft
Not every bird nest activity needs you to forage for natural materials as supplies. All you need for this simple craft is a printed bird, glues, scissors, heavy paper, and sidewalk chalk. The basic premise should be the same for all of your students but leave it up to them to add embellishments to the finished product.
Bird Nest STEAM Challenge
Birds don’t use tape or glue to put together their nests. This STEAM activity blends science with creativity to challenge students to build strong, sturdy nests. Use questions to drive the project around how their nests will withstand the elements, including whether their nests will collect water during storms.
Build the Best Bird’s Nest
Use this bird’s nest activity with found materials to answer simple questions about what birds use to build their nests and how they build them. Older students can go a little further and think about what different species of birds use to build their nests based on their surrounding environments.
Human-Sized Bird Nest
This is the ultimate “think like a bird” activity. Help students create human-sized environments they can nest in using discarded boxes or large pieces of cardboard. Shredded paper and other materials can line the inside or decorate the exterior. This is a fun small group project as a capstone for a unit on birds or habitats or even as an indoor recess activity.
Bird Sorting Activity
Use brown paper bags to create nests as buckets for this simple sorting activity. Students can sort based on color, size, or type of bird. If you choose different species, try to do some research about birds native to your local environment. You can customize this activity by adding plastic eggs or other small items they can practice simple math with or counting.
Crafts and lessons with bird nests as a base use a variety of problem-solving and STEM (and STEAM) skills to expand students’ understanding of the world around them. Adjust any activities as needed for your students’ grade level, unique needs, and learning styles. The topic is as versatile as the birds’ nests themselves!