Sparrow Nest

Scrappy and bold, this nest exemplifies the substantial field of street art-based nests, using found materials and constructed anywhere to avoid authoritative scrutiny. I once saw a masterpiece spilling out of the letter D on a sign for Donuts near my house. Breathtaking.

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Robin Nest

While praises have traditionally been sung about the sturdiness of this ubiquitous nest, I’m unimpressed. There’s just something so nest-y about it. It’s trying too hard to be a nest. Although there’s a lot to celebrate here—the roundness, the slenderness of the sticks—this nest ultimately speaks to a bygone era where nests had to be purely representational. A nest doesn’t have to look like a nest to be a nest.

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Hummingbird Nest

The hummingbird nest had been built to impossible magnitude by my peers—to the point that I could only expect it would let me down, like Hamilton and the clothes of Eileen Fisher. But, difficult as it is to imagine, the hummingbird nest surpassed even the most lauded reviews, catapulting into a stratosphere of composition that perhaps no bird has ever previously achieved. Shiny spider web and dew-tinged fishing line form a foundation under delicate clumps of moss. I’m weeping, just remembering it.

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Bald Eagle Nest

With this nest, you get what you expect, and that’s okay. Sticks jutting here and there with precise impreciseness, and that’s what eagles—bald or not—are all about. Sometimes you pay for vastness, for decisiveness, for a run-of-the-mill monolith. There is nothing to be said about this nest that the nest cannot say for itself.

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Cowbird Nest

A controversial bit of performance art, this “nest” is not a nest at all. Rather, the artist (brown-headed cowbird) lays her eggs in the nests of other birds and lets those birds raise her young. Some have called this approach bold and refreshing—especially when the artist chooses a nest of a much smaller bird, resulting in absurd juxtaposition. But let’s call this what it is: cheap, overdone, and frankly, boring. I didn’t come for show; I came for a nest.

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Swallow Nest

This cliffside variation on a nest subverts tradition and trades standard sticks and straw for bolder, more modern mud and dirt. Not for the trypophobic, these nests can inspire awe or disgust, depending on the audience. I find them quite moving, but my teen daughter hates them.

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Bowerbird Bower

It may surprise novice nest scholars to learn that the bowerbird’s construction is not a nest, but a courtship tactic. Nevertheless, its riffs on nestiness have earned it some analysis, and the verdict is clear: the bower is impressive. It takes seven years for the bowerbird to complete these ornate creations, filled with curated collections. The found-art allusions are not lost on this critic: it strikes me as a sort of tongue-in-cheek (and ultimately effective) way of saying, “Yes, I am cultured. Please have sex with me.”