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Bird nest

A new study led by a pioneering researcher from our Department of Anthropology has found that birds build hanging-nests, particularly those with extended entrance tunnels, to help protect offspring against nest invaders like snakes and parasitic cuckoos.

Elaborate nests

Researchers examined the relationship between nest design and the length of time offspring spend in the nest before fledging across species of weaverbirds and icterids, two bird families renowned for their complex woven nests.

They found that species building the most elaborate nests, particularly those with long entrance tunnels, produce offspring with longer developmental periods.

Nests with longer entrance tunnels are more effective at hindering access by nest invaders than shorter tunnels and thereby limit the exposure of developing offspring to nest invaders.

Protecting the offspring

Researchers suggest that the complex structural features in these nests do indeed play a role in protecting offspring from predators and brood parasites.

They point out that by building protective structures such as the elaborate nest, birds and other species can deploy greater control over their exposure to environmental hazards.

Their study findings reveal how animal architects such as nest-building birds and burrowing mammals can create protective environments that change how their offspring develop.

The researchers say this may even help to understand the role of shelter-building in human evolution.

Find out more

Our Anthropology Department is one of the largest in the UK and is ranked 29th globally (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022).

Fieldwork is core to our taught programmes, and we offer research-led teaching and hands-on experience to equip our students with the knowledge and skills they need for a successful future.

Feeling inspired? Visit our Anthropology webpages for more information on our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.