Birds & Their Nests

Nature Guides & Activities

PURPOSE: Learn the purpose of bird nests and build your own!  |  GRADE LEVELS: Pre K – 1


  • Examine bird homes that can be found in the Mojave Desert.
  • Describe that nests are made of a variety of materials like twigs, plant fibers, feathers, trash, spiderwebs, etc.
  • Create a model of a bird home based on evidence gathered during activities.


  • Activity Guide accessed through the Getting Started link for this topic.
  • Field Notebook Activity Pages accessed using the Field Notebook link for this topic.
  • Bird ID Cards and Video Resources provided using the Media link for this topic.
  • Assorted household materials to build a model nest. May include: Chenille twists, cotton balls, small strips of paper, feathers, pieces of felt, and commonly found pieces of litter.

Downloadable PDFs

Summary Of Activities

  1. Step #1: Display the “Bird ID Cards” of the Mojave Desert bird species focused on and provided in the Media section of this topic. They are Cactus Wren, Hummingbird, Burrowing Owl, Gambel’s Quail, and Great Blue Heron. All of these birds can be found in the Mojave Desert and all build nests to suit their needs and adaptations. All nests are meant to provide a safe, comfortable place to lay eggs and rear young. Each nest differs by size (think size of the animal as well as the space needed for their young) and location (depending on the bird’s skillset, easiest access, and need to escape predators), but most nests are made from similar materials (think protection and comfort for their young from the elements – just like a human home!).
  2. Step #2: Look closely at each and use clues in the photos. See if you can put the birds in order of size from tiny to extra large – Tiny, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large. Now, complete the activity “Which bird would live in which nest?” located in the Field Notebook materials.
  3. Step #3: View the “Hummingbird Builds Nest” video located in the Media materials. This is an example of a hummingbird making a nest. Watch closely to see if you can discern some of the materials she is using to make her nest. Why would she pick those materials? Are they easily available? Do they serve a specific purpose ( i.e protection, insulation, comfort, hold things together)? Complete the activity “What Can Make a Nest?” located in the Field Notebook materials.
  4. Step #4: Look closely at the “Bird ID” cards found in the Media materials. Based on the photos and information on them, complete the activity “Where would you find my nest?” found in the Field Notebook materials.
  5. Step #5: Build your own nest! Gather appropriate materials from around the house and put them together to make a nest just like our native birds do. Remember: your nest needs to provide enough space, insulation, and protection for baby birds in the spring. Can you do it?
  6. Step #6: Share your creation with our Facebook and Instagram community – don’t forget to tag us @getoutdoorsnv!

Mojave Desert Bird Species

Cactus Wren sitting on top of a cactus

Cactus Wren

The Cactus Wren is a small-sized bird that weighs less than two slices of sandwich bread! Cactus Wrens uniquely build their nests in cacti. The prickles of the cacti help keep the Wren and her young safe from predators and unwanted attention. Each Wren gathers materials found around her desert home like grass, feathers, and plant materials.

Hummingbird feeding it's chicks in a nest


Hummingbirds are tiny birds that weigh the same as one die (dice). They are very skillful flyers (they can even fly backwards!) and they look for shelter in trees or shrubs off the ground. Each Hummingbird can be very creative when building her nest. She may use spider webs, leaves, feathers, and even paint chips and moss to camouflage their nests from predators.

Gambel's Quail

Gambel’s Quail

Gambel’s Quails are medium-sized birds who look for food in groups at ground level. They would rather run than fly which keeps there nests built with grass, small twigs, and feathers close to the ground under the protection of shrubs or cacti. A female Quail can lay anywhere from 5-15 eggs each year depending on the amount of winter and spring rain received in her area.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Herons are extra large birds that weigh the same as twoliter bottles of lemonade. Though these birds look for food alone, they nest in large groups consisting of multiple nests in a large tree. Male Herons gather all of the materials and female Herons build their nest using sticks, pine needles, and dry grass. Learn More

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owls are large birds that are as heavy as a baseball. Unlike other owls that live in trees, Burrowing Owls live underground in holes usually dug by other animals called burrows. To escape from predators, these owls prefer to live in areas that have several burrows available in case they need protection. An owl loves to decorate her burrow with livestock manure, grass and feathers. Learn More

Additional Learning