There are roughly eighteen thousand bird species in the world. Many of these birds fly and others waddle and a few hum and some swim. And all of these birds lay eggs and hatch eggs and come from eggs. Many of those eggs live in nests and those nests are all different and also new but old too. You see, bird architecture is heavy with history. Nests were built alongside the Pantheon and the Pyramids and Persepolis (the Achaemenid capital and the graphic novel and the movie). Some nests are built high up and others are low or even on ground and rock. There are big nests and small nests and some catawampus nests too.
Birds build nests out of sticks and grass and leaves and trash. A plastic cup; a popular capsule among the many species of birds that enjoy cavity-nesting. Cavity nesters’ spell their excavated nests with various forms of outsourced padding. Some birds live inside of tree holes. Pendant nests are like little hobbit houses. They dangle from tree branches like teardrops or raindrops in green grass. These nests have a large opening towards the bottom of the hanging structure in which the bird enters and exits and exists. Pendant nests are gloriously long and detailed.
A mound nest is just as it sounds: mound-like and large and heapful. These nests are made out of dirt and live on the ground with the egg nestled inside. The egglings hatch under the ground. The most popular type of nest is known as a cup nest. Dr. Seuss’s protagonist in Are You My Mother? is born in a cup nest, along with many other famous fictional birds. Cup nests are simple and extravagant. Little blue robin’s eggs live inside of a padded chamber of sticks and grass and wildflower. Springtime spotting.
Some birds resist the practice of nest building altogether. The great spotted cuckoo, for example, prefers to lay her egg in the nest of another species. She abandons the egg in the nest of another bird and relies on the fostering of that other bird to hatch and raise her young. Some may never know what it might be like to be one of those cuckoo babies—hatched and motherless. Are you my mother? And stuck in a body that is meant to produce babies but not wanting to have those babies but everyone on television and in the family and in the social sphere says that you should have babies.
The nest is a temporary stay; a structure that is built to be departed from. A piece of creation that is meant to house creation and then that creation that it once housed leaves and the creation is destroyed and the mother dies, maybe. And then the baby bird that was raised in her nest goes off and builds a new one. The nest flies too. And they take their mother with them. Embedded in a complex code of genetics, like branches that have been strung together like wire.
Zoe Tanner is a human. Born in a world. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2019 and often blunders in a love/hate kind of way. Her work is experimental and gay and she lives in Brooklyn, New York.
featured photo by Emma Mazy