Do all flightless birds merely make nests on the ground? If you say yes, then you’re wrong. Why do some flying birds make nests on the ground? The flying birds that have duck-like, webbed feet are usually ground-nesting birds because of the availability of food on the ground.
Now, the question is, which birds make nests on the ground? A wide variety of birds nest on the ground, including shorebirds (avocets, sandpipers, and killdeer), wading birds (flamingos, cranes, and rails), waterfowl (swans, ducks, and geese), game birds (quail, turkeys, and grouse), and more.
Apart from that, some other types of birds are out there that nest on the ground. In this article, we’re going to talk about all that. Are you willing to know hanging nest birds? We have published an article on this topic. To read, click here!
Birds That Make Nests On The Ground
Most of the shorebirds make their nest on the shore where there is no abundance of trees. Some of them also make nests on the Rocky Mountains, grassy, or weedy areas. They choose the shore area because of predators’ inaccessibility. But, their nests are in danger of a surge of seawater.
Shorebirds that nest on the ground are:
Male American avocets lead their females to scrape on the ground until they find a suitable nesting site. Both males and females work together to make a nest, usually on the islands or dikes. They place their nest on the ground and line the depression with vegetables, grass, feathers, pebbles, or other objects.
The lining is mandatory during incubation and water-threatening situations. One remarkable fact about American avocets is that they lay eggs on other birds’ nests called “brood parasitism.” The hatchlings leave the nest within 24 hours.
You will see spotted sandpipers on the shore of lakes, streams, rivers, either single or in pairs.
Since their habitat is near water, they make a 2-3 inches deep nest within 100 yards of the water edge.
The location of their nest is under a broad-leafed plant, whereas predators influence them to make it under thick vegetation. They usually make their nest in Common Tern colonies.
To confuse predators, killdeer make several 3-3.5 inches scrapes closely. Then, they lay an egg on each scrape. You will see their nests in a slightly higher place than their habitat. During the ritual “scrape ceremony,” the mated pair choose a site for nesting.
Then, the female lays eggs on the scrape first and then fills it with other materials. They protect their eggs and chicks in the nest by showing their broken wings to the predators or running towards the hoofed animals to change their direction.
2. Wading Birds
The term “wading bird” denotes a wide range of birds with long legs and agile toes that help them to wade in the water. They live in salt and fresh water, such as rivers, ponds, marshes, mudflats, etc.
Wading birds that nest on the ground are:
Americal flamingo builds their volcano-shaped nest with mud. Both males and females mound the muds with their feet and bills. The height of the nest is 12 inches from the ground. Why? To keep the egg from flood away and intensive heat.
Isn’t it interesting that a bird builds a mansion on its own? Yes, absolutely. After making the nest, the female lay a larger egg on the nest but both the male and the female incubate it.
Sandhill cranes start making their territory before making nests. From mid-April to mid-May, they start making their nest in stagnant water with cattails, burr reeds, sedges, etc. They also make a cup-shaped hollow in their nest lined with twigs. You can usually find their nest within 300 yards of the water.
One exciting thing is – they always build nests in the same area in their entire life. Even if any pair dies, another one will make a nest in the same place with its new mate. The diameter of the nest is around 4-5 feet. The height of the nest is approximately 4-6 inches.
Likewise, killdeer, Virginia rail build many dummy nests but lay on a particular one. They make a nest with marshes, sedges, etc., on the floating mats of vegetation or just above the water surface level. You can reach the water just 1 inch below.
Both males and females take part in building the nest, and it takes around 1 week for them. Finally, they build a bowl-shaped nest.
Waterfowl word means the species of poultry which spends time in and around water. All of the waterfowl make nests on the ground except wood duck, even though they can fly. They are much similar to wading birds.
If you find waterfowl in an area, you can assume this area’s water is healthy. As their chicks are precocial, they tend to build nests near water because when predators attack, chicks can swim on the water.
Waterfowl that nest on the ground are:
Trumpeter swans make their nest within 600 feet of the area from their shore. They tend to choose nesting places surrounded by water. Both males and females collect construction materials for the nest. They make nests using beaver dens, beaver dams, small islands, manmade structures. You can see that they are using a nest year after year.
Using body and bills, females make a bowl-shaped nest. The lining of the bowl includes feathers. A nest needs 14-35 days to complete. The size of this ground nest is 11 feet across and 3 feet high. The bowl size is 10-16 inches across and 4-8 inches deep.
#American Black Duck
Did you hear birds need a basin? The female American black duck makes a 7-8 inches across and 1.5 inches deep basin. Female is also responsible for choosing nesting place, collecting materials for lining the hole. Females usually like to select a well-concealed site, a shrubby area, a brush pile for making a nest.
She builds the nest by digging soil with her legs. In the laying period, she adds some twigs, small leaf, stems to the nest. After laying 4-5 eggs, she starts adding feathers not to break eggs to the nest not to break eggs.
Goose is an intelligent bird out there, so why not the Canada goose? They tend to make their nests in an area where they can observe their predators and everything, but obviously near water. The nest is cup-shaped, and the Canada goose makes with grass, leeches, moss, and other plant materials.
Like an American black duck, a female Canada goose makes their nest and adds her down and body feather after laying the second egg. Male Canada goose guard the nests.
4. Game Birds
Game birds have two varieties: ground-nesting and tree nesting. Ground nesting game birds usually make shallow depressions on the ground and are lined with grass or feathers. Ground nesting variety hatches a fluffy chick to eliminate predation.
Game birds that nest on the ground are:
California quail shows egg-dumping (laying eggs on other’s nests) behavior because the clutches are larger than other birds. In a quail nest, you will find 28 eggs.
Both males and females take part in making nests, and they build nests 10 inches above the ground. The size is – 5-7 inches across and 1-2 inches deep. Usually, they choose an area under shrubs, trees, or beyond grasses.
#Eastern Wild Turkey
The nests of Eastern wild turkeys are usually available in dead lives under trees and bushes piles. They can fly a little bit but build nests on the ground. Female takes all responsibilities, like scraping soil, designing, lining the sidewall, etc.
The size is – 1 inch deep, 9-13 inches long, 8-11 inches wide. The incubation process continues once the last egg is laid.
Ruffed grouse is a victim, what! Yes, wild turkey and ring-necked pheasants lay eggs on ruffed grouse nests. Females usually choose nesting places after mating. More often than not, they prefer areas like – base of trees and rock, brush piles, open fields.
To keep their eye on predators, they choose open areas. The bowl-shaped and hollowed-depression in leaves nest is lined with grass. The size of the nest is – 6 inches across and 3 inches deep.
5. Flightless Birds
Flightless birds are obligate to make their nests on the ground. They lay eggs that are larger than other birds on the list. They try to camouflage themselves in the sand.
Flightless birds that make nests on the ground are:
Ostrich nest is a dump nest which means this nest can contain 60 eggs at a time. Think how much bigger the nest is! Because the egg size is 6 inches in diameter.
Male ostrich digs the soil to make a nest. As ostrich loves to live in a flock, they have a dominant hen that lays eggs on the pit. The size of the nest is – 30-60 inches deep and 3 meters wide.
Male greater rhea tries to make the nest resembles a firebreak. Greater rhea make select a hidden area for nesting. After mating several female rheas, males make the nest with sticks, vegetables, etc.
In the breeding season, their nests are found near rivers, lakes. You can see 50 to 80 eggs on a single nest.
Emus are the second-largest living birds by height. Common emus are one of them, which weigh around 70 to 100 pounds. They’re primarily out there in Australia, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, and New Guinea.
Typically, common emus build expansive nests on the ground. Both male and female common emus stay together for up to 5 months, whereas the female lay large eggs. She needs 7 weeks to incubate the eggs. The female may mate with a different male in the same season.
6. Aquatic Birds
Aquatic birds’ habitats are near islands and the Rocky Mountains. They usually make their nests with pebbles, stones and are lined with grass, twigs, leaves, vegetables.
Aquatic birds that make nests on the ground are:
Macaroni Penguins build nests with stone and pebbles in muddy or gravel areas. You can see their nests on the coast island area. The nest of this bird is more than a scrape and lined with grasses.
If you ever have cliff jumping on the seacoast area, you may see razorbill. You must see this particular bird in western Iceland but a little bit on eastern islands in the gulf of MaineGulf.
Usually, razorbill doesn’t make a nest; even if it makes, the size is narrower. The size of the nest is – 11.5 inches long and 7.5 inches wide. Razorbill lines the nest with pebbles, vegetables, stones, etc.
About 650 feet away from the sea, rhinoceros auklet males and females excavate a burrow to make their nest. They always try to choose a higher area to protect themselves from the tide.
At the end of the burrow, a nest chamber is located, lined with grass, twigs, and leaves. Above all, the nest is bowl-shaped with a shallow depression.
7. Pelagic Birds
This is a group of ocean birds. Pelagic birds live in the ocean back to the land during breeding and nesting season. The Male is responsible for selecting the nesting area and protecting the nest.
Pelagic birds that make nests on the ground are:
Magnificent Frigatebird is a ground nester, but it also builds nests at the top of small trees and shrubs. Both male and female works on building a successful nest, though she chooses the nesting place.
A successful nest-building procedure needs 13 days. Male usually collects materials like sticks from trees, shrubs, and send to female. Females make the nest using sticks on the ground and top of small trees.
I was just astonished after studying this bird. Blue-footed boobies do not make any nests, so females lay eggs on the bare ground. But you can see their nest in coastal or rocky areas.
Their nest shape is bowl-shaped and filled with feces. So, it is termed guano.
Edge of flat coastal grasslands (Falklands), cliff walls areas is the nesting site of Black-browed albatross. They use the nest annually.
A solid pillar of mud, guano, grass, seaweed altogether composes their nest on the soil. But rabbit burrowing destroys their nest. This is pathetic!
In order to keep our ecosystem balanced, we should not be cruel to birds. We should not break eggs without any need. A bird that nests on the ground is beneficial for pest control and equally crucial for soil fertility. So, we should care about their viability and fertility.
However, we hope you have learned a lot about the birds that make nests on the ground. If you have any experience with any of the ground-nesting birds, you can share it with us below in the comment section.