The basic premise of this regular column is that nature is full of things that speak of an intelligence as being the basic cause of what we see. The alternative is an attempt to find some series of events bird nestthat might possibly explain how what we see could develop by chance. A good example of the difference in these two approaches is seen in the way in which birds build their nests. Sharon Beals has written a book titled Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them. She says there are basically six different types of nests that birds build in the Midwestern part of the United States:

Cavity nests: Naturally excavated trees. This includes woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, titmice, and bluebirds.

Cup nests:
Small cups usually placed in trees or bushes made of spider silk, plant down, lichen, moss, and plant fibers. Some cup nests are so tightly woven they can hold rainwater. Hummingbirds, phoebes, goldfinches, and vireos make this kind of nest.

Pendant nests:
Elaborately woven pouches hung on the ends of tree branches. The main users of this style in our area are orioles.

Platform nests:
Massive platforms of sticks lined with shredded bark or leaves. Herons, eagles, osprey, and hawks construct these huge nests that can be nine feet across, 20 feet deep and weigh several tons.

Scrape nests:
A depression is scraped out and then lined with down, grass, or leaves. Ducks, killdeer, shorebirds, and game birds use this style of nest.

Saucer nests:
This is a jumble of sticks and plant material piled into a loose saucer shape. “Mourning dove nests are often so flimsy the eggs can be seen from below!” Chimney swifts use saliva to cement their saucer to the inside of a chimney or hollow tree.

When these birds are raised in captivity, they still use the same nest type as their parents even if they never saw a nest or their own parents. It is clear this is programmed into their genes and is not a learned behavior. Because not all birds use the same style, a variety of nest sites is always available and materials are not depleted. The method by which the genetic programming takes place is an interesting question, but computers need to be programmed by an intelligence, and we would suggest that an intelligence programmed not only birds to build good nests, but also has given all animals a way to survive in a complex world.

Source: Fernwood Notes, Fall 2011, www.fernwoodbotanical.org.

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