We humans are builders and engineers. In that respect, we have something in common with our flying vertebrate friends — yup, birds — which often construct intricate nests with whatever materials might be at hand. A new book, Avian Architecture (Princeton University Press), by Peter Goodfellow, details (and clearly illustrates) various nest-building using “blueprint” drawings and thorough descriptions of the construction processes and engineering techniques of key species.
[A spread detailing the “Velcro technique” practiced by Long-Tailed Tits.]
This isn’t a lavish coffee-table book — information is privileged over visuals — but there’s plenty to marvel at, from the Cliff Swallow’s elaborate mud colonies that resemble barnacles affixed to rock faces, to the Sooty-Capped Hermit’s hanging, counterweighted cup-shaped nest. Our favorites are the examples of biomimicry — instances of us mirroring nature in our own architecture. But most of the nests are remarkable feats ” especially when you consider that they’re built with the assistance of a single tool — a beak — which, as Goodfellow writes, is a little like ?trying to make a ham and cheese sandwich with one hand behind your back.”