How Long Does it Take a Bird to Build a Nest

How Long Does it Take a Bird to Build a Nest? Know the Facts

Watching a bird build a nest is genuinely something to behold. With just a beak, they can construct extremely complex structures. Some birds, such as the sunbird or hummingbird, build specific nests designed to house their eggs in the softest cocoon available. But how long does it take a bird to build a nest?

Typically it takes a bird from two days to two weeks to build a full nest. If you are wondering why it can take two weeks, remember that numerous variables could influence the time it takes for a bird to build its nest. Everything from the material used to the specific construction is important. 

Let’s learn more about how long it takes a bird to build a nest!

Photo by pixabay

Do Males or Females Build the Nests?

Females often take the brunt of nest building but males do also help sometimes. In many species, such as the weaver, the males construct nests to please potential female partners. And if the female is not satisfied with the nest, the male has to start over from the very beginning. 

The Weaver Nest

Blue tit building its nest

One of the most common nests to see in your garden is the weaver’s nest. The males will take approximately seven days to build a nest, and it can be taken down in a fraction of that time. 

The Southern Masked Weaver is a bird commonly found in many gardens. Many online forums have curious garden bird watchers asking why a weaver’s nest will sometimes disappear when the male seems to have just finished building it. According to a South African study conducted at the CSIR in Pretoria, weavers have interesting nest-building patterns.

The study found that there was one male weaver in a particular colony who always had more than ten nests. In the same colony, a different male had just a single nest or two nests at most. Why is this? The researchers discovered that males with just one or two nests were more inexperienced and younger males.

Author Note: The more inexperienced male weavers had tendencies to construct nests and break it down after a few days. 

Southern Masked-Weaver (Ploceus velatus)

Photo by Petrus Bester

The Southern Masked Weaver is a South African bird with some interesting nest habits which we will now investigate.

When the Female Arrives

Once a female weaver arrives at a colony, the male weaver will show off his nests, but the show is not just for the constructed nest. The males will sit in their nests and put on a display for the female from his nest. As if it is his stage. The researchers noted that the males tended to choose the most recently constructed nest to do their unique display. 

The female then decides whether or not to accept the nest. If she does not, she will simply leave and find another male display to judge. A common misconception is that a female weaver will destroy a nest if she is not satisfied with it. This is not true- as researchers observe that the female simply flies away and finds another male’s display. 

Photo by Charles J. Sharp

The male is usually the one to break down the nest if it needs to be taken down. The nest is constructed out of green vegetation. It is thought that the new nests, with the brighter colors from the fresher materials, are chosen by the males to do their displays from due to the more attractive colors.

After a few days, the green fades into browns. Once the nest has turned brown, the female cannot decipher as easily how old the nest may be. Therefore, researchers believe that females will tend to choose a greener nest as they can decipher how old it is.

Photo by Charles J. Sharp

When the Female Leaves

People often see brown weavers’ nests hanging for prolonged periods of time, usually without any weavers in it. This is because a male weaver does not always break down the rejected nest and will sometimes leave it hanging until the elements break it down.

The male uses his bill to shred the old nest, especially if he is happy with the placing and just wants to build a new nest in the same place. It takes approximately half an hour for a male weaver to break down his nest. But the male will usually take longer as the males tend to take breaks in between the hard work of shredding the nest. 

In the majority of the nest-building species, the female does most or all of the nest construction. In the minority, both partners contribute. Sometimes the male builds the nest, and the hen lines it. In some polygynous species, the male does most or all of the nest building.

Photo by Axel Tschentscher

The nests might also form part of a courtship display, such as in the weaver birds, and the ability to choose and maintain good nest sites and build high-quality structures is vital when trying to attract a potential partner. In some species, the young from previous broods will act as helpers and assist adults in constructing a nest.

Does the Weather Impact Nest Construction?

Baya weaver (Ploceus philippinus) with Nest

During cold weather, a bird would be required to build a better-insulated nest compared to that of a nest constructed in the summer. Such a difference would impact upon energy expenditure by an incubating adult during both construction and incubation.

Building better insulation would take longer but offer better insulation for incubation when the weather is cold.

Naturally, the more temperate climates allow for faster nest building, as the birds will not have to spend as much time collecting insulating material. Materials for insulation are usually much finer materials that would be used for the exterior.

These materials include needles, twigs, sticks, reeds, lichen, moss, seaweed, grass, and leaves. However, these materials are heavily dependent on the environment. If a bird has access to animal products, these will definitely be used for insulation:

  • Hair
  • Fur
  • Pieces or shreds of dry cow patties

Types of Nests

Long-lasting Nests

Some species of birds will construct a nest and use it year after year, adding to it each, whether it’s expanding or doing routine maintenance. One example of this is the bald eagle, which has a reputation as the grand champion nest builder.

An Eagles nest was discovered near St Petersburg, Florida that measured ten feet wide, twenty feet across, and weighed approximately 4400 pounds,

Photo by Thomas Shockey

Small and Flexible Nests 

The smallest nests are constructed by the Hummingbird. These beautiful little birds may lay eggs during construction and continue to build the side walls during incubation. Hummingbirds usually lay a pair of bean-sized eggs. As the babies grow, the nest too grows and expands.

Photo by Jennie Orh

Elaborate Nests

Orioles are known as the seamstress of the nest building world. Their iconic pendant nests dangle from the tips of the tree branches. Orioles use whatever material is available to stitch their bag nests. They will use twine, long grasses, and horsehair.

The nests are lined with soft materials such as plant fibers, feathers, and even animal wool. One of the longest dangling nests is constructed by the Altamira Oriole of south Texas and Central America. Their impressive nests can hang down as much as two feet. 

But, this is more common in the summer when the weather is warmer. If you live in the central area of the US or Canada, you may still be fortunate enough to catch a rare glimpse of this bird. When winter comes, the Baltimore Orioles will usually migrate in search of a more neotropical climate.

But the Baltimore Orioles can sometimes remain in the southeastern areas of the United States if the weather permits it.

Simple Nests 

Some species of birds get away with hardly building a nest at all. This does not mean that they are lazy or negligent nest builders. Instead, they allow nature to forge or assist in the construction of their nests. An example of this is each nesting birds who lay their eggs in shallow indentations in the sand.

Photo by Imogen Warren

The key to their success is cryptic camouflage, and eggs are speckled to match the sandy environment. Sometimes all that is required is to line the nest with sand or shells to add to the camouflage.

Floating Nests

Some waterbirds, like ducks, nest in upland grasslands quite far from water. Others, such as coots and loons, nest directly on top of the water. Birds build floating nests constructed of aquatic vegetation, mud, and reeds to ensure the eggs don’t sink when laid.

Photo by Imogen Warren

They also anchor their nests to emergent vegetation to conceal them and to prevent them from floating away.

Underground Nests

Some species of bird, like the burrowing owl, will dig their own burrows. Other underground nesters include Atlantic Puffins, kingfishers, and bank swallows.

Do Birds Steal Other Birds’ Nests?

Many species of birds will steal nests; they will also steal nesting hollows, nesting materials, and of course, food. Blue Jay, Stellar’s Jay, and Scrub Jays are infamous; they are incredibly aggressive and domineering and prey on the young.

What is a Brood Parasite?

Brood parasites are organisms that rely on others to raise their young. The brood parasite will manipulate its host, either of the same or of another species, to raise its young as if it were their own. The Brown-headed Cowbird from North America is a perfect example of an avian brood parasite.

Photo by Imogen Warren

Studying and understanding bird behavior, especially with regards to nest building, can teach us about a bird’s behavior. Birds display intelligence, coupled with distinctive learning and adaptive capabilities to build their nests.

Whether a nest will take seven days to create or one day, the nest building decision will always be based on information gathered from the bird’s environment. A bird can adapt and learn from its environment to build its nest. 


We hope you enjoyed learning how long it takes a bird to build a bird net. There are thousands of different species of birds and all have their own techniques for making bird nests. If you find a bird nest in your yard, be sure to leave it alone and observe the baby birds from a distance.

Fly high friends!


Where do birds live while building a nest?

Birds only build nests for laying eggs and raising their young. The rest of the time (and while the nest is being built) is the normal way they live. Birds roost in a range of places from branches to cavities or underground.

What to do if a bird starts building a nest?

If a bird starts to build a nest in a dangerous or inappropriate place then try to dismantle it as soon as possible. That way, the birds will still have a chance to build a nest somewhere else.

How long after building a nest do birds lay eggs?

Once a nest is complete, birds will lay their eggs quickly usually within 2-3 days.

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