15 Birds That Build Mud Nests

Birds that build mud nests

Birds that build mud nests have always fascinated both nature lovers and birdwatchers. Using materials like mud, grass, and leaves, these birds craft nests that are not only functional but also works of art in their own right.

Whether it’s the agile Common House Martin or the stunning Black-billed Magpie, each of these birds showcases a unique blend of architectural skill and adaptability.

The world of these amazing birds will be explored in this article. You’ll learn about where they live, how they build their nests, and some cool facts along the way. So, let’s get started and learn more about these mud-loving birds!

15 Birds That Build Mud Nests

1. Hamerkops

Hamerkop near the river
Scientific Name:Scopus umbretta
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:18.5–22 in (48–55 cm)
Weight:14.6–15.1 oz (415–430 g)
Wingspan:35.4–37 in (90–94 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 20 years

The Hamerkops is a wading bird known for building big mud nests. Found in places like Africa and Madagascar, they love to be near water, like lakes and rivers.

What makes Hamerkops particularly fascinating is their nesting behavior. They use sticks and mud to build huge dome-shaped nests. These aren’t just any nests; at up to 6.5 feet wide, they’re some of the biggest bird nests in Africa!

But that’s not all. These birds have a head that looks a bit like a hammer, which is how they got their name. So, if you ever see a bird with a hammer-shaped head near water, you might just be looking at a Hamerkop.

2. Apostlebird

Apostlebird on its mud nest
Scientific Name:Struthidea cinerea
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:11.4–18.5 in (29–47 cm)
Weight:3.8–4.5 oz (110–130 g)
Wingspan:12.5–14.1 in (32–36 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 25 years

Native to Australia, the Apostlebird is a notable mud nest-building bird and is sometimes called a grey jumper for their hopping gait.

These medium-sized dark gray birds are known for their unique social behavior, often seen in groups of 12, which is how they got their name from the biblical Twelve Apostles.

These birds love places with trees and are often found in woodlands or on farms. They are ground feeders, primarily munching on insects and seeds.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this bird is its nest-building habit. Using mud and grass, they build sturdy nests high up on the horizontal branches of large trees, providing a safe haven for their young.

3. Cliff Swallow

Cliff Swallow in their mud nests
Scientific Name:Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:5.1 in (13 cm)
Weight:0.7–1.2 oz (19–34 g)
Wingspan:11–11.8 in (28–30 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 11 years

The Cliff Swallow is a North American bird known for its social nature and mud-nest-building habit. These birds are often spotted in large colonies, with some sites even hosting thousands of nests.

During one of my field studies in Mexico, I observed a colony of Cliff Swallows up close. Their synchronized flight patterns were amazing to watch.

Nestled under a rocky overhang, they skillfully crafted their mud nests, showcasing nature’s architectural genius. Each nest is meticulously built with mud pellets and covered with grass and feathers for extra warmth.

They are most at home in wide-open areas, especially those close to cliffs, river bluffs, and lakes. Interestingly, they’ve also adapted to human-made structures, building their nests under roofs, bridges, and overpasses.

Apart from their nesting habits, Cliff Swallows are easily recognizable by their white foreheads and dark brownish plumage with hints of red.

4. Purple Martin

Purple Martin on a building ledge
Scientific Name:Progne subis
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:7.5–7.9 in (19–20 cm)
Weight:1.6–2.1 oz (45–60 g)
Wingspan:15.3–16.1 in (39–41 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 13 years

Another bird that builds nests out of mud is the Purple Martin, which is also regarded as the largest swallow in North America.

These birds, like other birds with purple feathers, are famous for their glossy, purplish-blue plumage. They are also known for their aerial acrobatics as they skillfully catch flying insects in midair.

In terms of habitat, Purple Martins prefer open areas near wetlands, swamps, and wet meadows. They often build their nests in dead trees, cliff edges, tree hollows, or even in birdhouses in people’s yards.

Moreover, they are communal birds and can often be seen nesting together in colonies.

Their unique nesting behavior, combined with their captivating appearance, makes the Purple Martin a popular subject among bird watchers and researchers alike.

5. Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe side view while perched on a stump
Scientific Name:Sayornis nigricans
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:6–7 in (15–18 cm)
Weight:0.5–0.7 oz (15–22 g)
Wingspan:10.6–11 in (27–28 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 8 years

Black Phoebes are mud nest-building birds found primarily in the western U.S. Famous as one of the birds with black and white plumage, they sport a sleek black body contrasted with a crisp white belly, making them easy to spot.

These birds are a common sight wherever there is water. Their native range is from southwest Oregon to Central and South America. Being close to water is important for their nesting habits.

They use mud to craft cup-shaped nests, which they typically attach to walls, overhangs, or even under bridges.

This strategic placement not only protects them but also makes it easy for them to get insects, which are their main food source.

Black Phoebes have exceptional flycatching abilities. You’ll often observe them perched in elevated areas near bodies of water or open spaces where they can easily dart out and catch insects in midair.

6. Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow nesting under the roof
Scientific Name:Hirundo rustica
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:6–7.5 in (15–19 cm)
Weight:0.6–0.7 oz (17–20 g)
Wingspan:11.4–12.6 in (29–32 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 8 years

The Barn Swallow is an amazing bird that builds its nests out of mud, and you can see it all over the world.

Barn Swallows are the most common type of swallow and are a sight to behold with their vibrant blue upper parts that are quite similar to other types of blue birds. They are also known for their deeply forked tails.

Native to the Northern Hemisphere, these birds display a collaborative nesting behavior. Both females and males take part in constructing the nest.

They build their nests out of mud pellets, grass, and feathers, usually putting them up against walls or other vertical surfaces.

Beyond their nesting habits, Barn Swallows are agile flyers, adept at catching insects midair. Their adaptability and widespread distribution highlight their critical role in managing insect populations around the world.

7. Cave Swallow

Three Cave Swallows peeking from their mud nest
Scientific Name:Petrochelidon fulva
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:4.7–5.5 in (12–14 cm)
Weight:0.6–0.9 oz (17–25 g)
Wingspan:13 in (33 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 4 years

Native primarily to the Americas, the Cave Swallow is a remarkable mud nest-building bird. Sporting dark upperparts and a pale underside, these birds stand out with their chestnut rump, forehead, and cheeks.

These swallows have a unique way of building their nests. They use a mix of mud and accumulated waste from bats to construct their nests. These crafted nests are then firmly cemented onto the walls of caves or ledges.

Interestingly, while they originally preferred natural caves for nesting, they have adapted to human-made structures, often choosing bridges and tunnels as their nesting sites.

When not nesting, they can be seen mingling with other swallow species and foraging in large flocks.

8. Eastern Phoebe

Two Eastern Phoebes waiting for food
Scientific Name:Sayornis phoebe
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:5.5–6.7 in (14–17 cm)
Weight:0.6–0.7 oz (16–21 g)
Wingspan:10.2–11 in (26–28 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 9 years

Belonging to the world of small brown birds, the Eastern Phoebe is a small songbird that builds nests out of mud and can be found throughout much of eastern and central North America.

These birds have plump bodies and medium-length tails. Their calls, which sound like “phee-bee,” are often used to identify them.

While they are naturally inclined to nest in sheltered locations, they have a particular fondness for man-made structures. The sides of buildings or the framework of bridges are often their top choices.

On rare occasions, these adaptable birds might even build their nests on the ground.

Their nests are built primarily from mud and lined with grass and moss. This provides a soft and cozy surface, ensuring the utmost comfort for their eggs and the developing chicks.

9. American Robin

American Robin
Scientific Name:Turdus migratorius
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:8–11 in (20–28 cm)
Weight:2.7–3 oz (77–85 g)
Wingspan:12.2–15.8 in (31–40 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 6 years

The American Robin, a prominent mud nest-building bird, is a familiar sight across North America. With its warm orange breast and cheerful song, it’s a symbol of the changing seasons, often marking the end of winter.

Unlike most birds on this list that primarily use mud to build their nests, American Robins use mud as a reinforcing agent, adding stability to their nests.

While mud plays a crucial role in nest construction, it’s not the primary material. Instead, these birds craft their nests using soft materials such as twigs, grass, and moss.

Found in diverse habitats, from forests to suburban backyards, American Robins are known for their early morning foraging, tugging earthworms out of the ground.

Their adaptability, combined with their vibrant appearance and melodic calls, makes American Robins a beloved species in the bird community.

10. Rufous Hornero

Rufous Hornero in its mud nest looking upwards
Scientific Name:Furnarius rufus
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:7–8 in (18–20 cm)
Weight:1.1–2 oz (31–58 g)
Wingspan:4–6 in (10–15 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 7 years

The Rufous Hornero is a unique species that is native to eastern South America and is well-known for being extremely skilled at making mud nests.

With their reddish-brown plumage, these medium-sized birds are not only visually appealing but are also recognized as the national bird of Argentina.

They are well-known for their remarkable building skills, demonstrated by the elaborate mud nests they create.

These nests, often resembling old-fashioned clay ovens, are primarily made of mud but are reinforced with other materials like twigs and grass.

Interestingly, Rufous Horneros prefer to place their nests on man-made structures, which showcase their adaptability to human environments.

Their nest-building process is a collaborative effort. Both the male and female Rufous Hornero work in tandem, typically taking around 5 days to complete their nest.

See these incredible birds at work below as they build their nest:

Nest Building of Engineer Bird | Rufous Hornero

11. Black-billed Magpie

Black billed Magpie standing on a plant
Scientific Name:Pica hudsonia
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:17.7–23.6 in (45–60 cm)
Weight:5.1–7.4 oz (145–210 g)
Wingspan:22.1–24 in (56–61 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 6 years

The Black-billed Magpie is a stunning mud nest-building bird. They are prominent figures in the western half of North America.

Known for their curious nature, these birds can be found in grasslands, meadows, and sagebrush plains. They eat a variety of foods, including grains, fruits, insects, and small animals.

With their contrasting black and white plumage and iridescent hints of blue or blue-green on their wings and tails, these birds are definitely hard to miss.

While not primarily known for mud nests, Black-billed Magpies do incorporate mud to reinforce and stabilize their nesting structures.

The bottom half of the nest is constructed using a mix of mud, grasses, twigs, leaves, and other plant materials, while the upper portion of the nest is built mostly out of twigs.

12. American Flamingo

Two pink American Flamingos in their nest
Scientific Name:Phoenicopterus ruber
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:47.2–57 in (120–145 cm)
Weight:4.8–8 lb (2.2–3.6 kg)
Wingspan:51.2–65 in (130–165 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 40 years

The American Flamingo stands out as the only flamingo species naturally found in the Western Hemisphere. Native to both North and South America, these beautiful birds are also known for their mud-nesting habits.

They build their nests using mud sourced from the bottoms of lakes and ponds. This mud-based structure serves as a secure foundation for their large eggs.

Diet-wise, these flamingos have a preference for algae and crustaceans. Using their long, adapted bills, they carefully filter their food from the water.

Aside from their unique behaviors and habitat preferences, what really draws people to flamingos is how they look.

A symbol of grace and beauty in the world of birds, the American Flamingo is distinguished by its bright pink color, long legs, and graceful posture.

If you are drawn to the unique features of the American Flamingo, it is best to check out these articles about birds with long necks and long legs, which are sure to entertain you.

13. White-winged Chough

White winged Chough
Scientific Name:Corcorax melanorhamphos
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:17.3–19.6 in (44–50 cm)
Weight:9.8–15 oz (280–425 g)
Wingspan:25.6 in (65 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 16 years

The White-winged Choughs is renowned for its meticulously built nests. They build their nests mainly from mud, shaping them into large bowl-like structures.

These nests are carefully perched on horizontal branches about 49 feet above the ground.

Interestingly, it takes several months to build this mud nest, particularly if there isn’t enough rain to keep the mud from drying out.

If it’s a dry season and mud is scarce, these clever birds use dung from cattle or Emus as an alternative building material.

In terms of habitat, you can find White-winged Choughs mostly in open woodlands, forests, and heathlands of eastern Australia.

In these places, they eat insects as their main food but also enjoy munching on berries, fruits, and seeds.

14. Common House Martin

Common House Martin building a mud nest
Scientific Name:Delichon urbicum
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:5.1–5.5 in (13–14 cm)
Weight:0.3–0.8 oz (10.3–23 g)
Wingspan:10.2–11.4 in (26–29 cm)
Lifespan:Up to 14 years

The Common House Martin is not just a master at building mud nests but also adept at being a migratory bird. These birds travel far and wide, spending the colder months in warmer climates and flying back home in time for nesting season.

They build their nests on the outside of buildings, usually beneath the roof eaves, using mud they collect from ponds and streams.

These places not only offer protection but also make it easier for these birds to access their nests during their frequent in-and-out trips. Moreover, they usually choose to nest in colonies, creating a tight-knit community of nests.

Apart from their nesting habits, Common House Martins are also known for their swift flight and aerial acrobatics. They dart and weave through the air with amazing precision, performing complex maneuvers.

These remarkable aerial displays are not just for show; they help House Martins catch insects in midair, which provides a regular food source for the birds and their young.

15. Spotted Morning Thrush

Spotted Morning Thrush perched on a mossy branch
Scientific Name:Cichladusa guttata
Conservation Status:Least Concern
Length:6.3–6.7 in (16–17 cm)
Weight:0.6–1 oz (17–30 g)
Wingspan:Not specified
Lifespan:Not specified

Also known as the Spotted Palm Thrush, a Spotted Morning Thrush is a fascinating bird that has intrigued birdwatchers for years because of its habit of making nests out of mud.

These birds showcase their unique nest-building skills by using a combination of mud, grass, and leaves.

Once constructed, their nests, which are thinly lined with materials like grass, bark fiber, and rootlets, are typically perched on thick tree branches, around 6 to 10 feet off the ground.

It takes around 10 days to complete a nest, and the same nests are sometimes used again in the same season.

Native to regions like Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, Spotted Morning Thrushes thrive in diverse habitats.

They live in different areas, from dry forests and open savannas to bushy areas with lots of shrubs. So, if you’re ever in these regions, keep an eye out for these unique birds and their impressive mud nests!

As we wrap up, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with birds that build mud nests. So go ahead and share your stories and questions with us in the comment section below!

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