12 Birds That Nest on the Ground (with Pictures)


Birds That Nest on the Ground

Just as our homes are an important part of our lives, so are nests for the birds that build them. There are many factors that determine the kind of nest a bird makes: the weather of their habitat, the requirement of camouflage, the proximity to prey or predators, etc. Some birds like their nests tidy and pristine, while others are quite sloppy in the process of nest-building.

In this article, we are going to take a look at 16 birds you have often heard of that build their nests on the ground.

Black-Capped Petrel

Black-Capped Petrel

Scientific name – Pterodroma hasitata
Body length – 40.5 centimeters (16 inches)
Weight – 329-545 grams
Wingspan – 94 centimeters (37 inches)
Lifespan – about 17 years
Diet – carnivore
Conservation status – endangered

Also known as “Diablotin”, the Black-capped Petrels are small seabirds that have a dark back and long, dark wings with white underparts. In some parts, the black cap often extends to their eyes, giving them a masked impression. These Petrels mainly feed on fish and squids that they catch from the surface of water bodies.

 

The nest of Black-capped Petrels

The nests of the Black-capped Petrels resemble that of the Gadfly Petrels and are located in the highland regions or forest cliffs of an island. These nests are well-hidden to escape the attention of predators.

 

Green Kingfisher

Green Kingfisher

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Scientific name – Chloroceryle americana
Body length – 20 centimeters (7.9 inches)
Weight – 29-55 grams
Wingspan – 28-33 centimeters
Lifespan – about 5 years
Diet – carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

The Green Kingfishers are one of the smaller members of the kingfisher family and are endemic to North America. These birds have moderate-sized wings, a short tail, and a bill that is much longer in comparison. Their upperparts are oily green in color with two green bands on the otherwise pale chest and underparts.

 

The nest of Green Kingfishers

The Green Kingfishers build their nest on the river bank. Their nests are shaped like a horizontal tunnel which is about 1 meter long and 2-2.5 inches wide. Both sexes can build the nest.

 

American Avocet

American Avocet

Scientific name – Recurvirostra americana
Body length – 40-51 centimeters (16-20 inches)
Weight – 275-420 grams
Wingspan – 68-76 centimeters (27-30 inches)
Lifespan – up to 9 years
Diet – carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

The American Avocets are large shorebirds that have a dull brown head and neck with white underparts and black plumage. The bill of these birds is long and slender, about twice the size of their face, and is bent slightly upwards towards the edge. They have long legs with feet that are partially webbed.

 

The nest of American Avocets

The American Avocets build their nests on grubby shorelines where the predators can’t threaten them. Their nests are shaped like a saucer.

 

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Scientific name – Hylocichla mustelina
Body length – 18-21 centimeters (7.1-8.5 inches)
Weight – 48-72 grams
Wingspan – 30-40 centimeters (12-16 inches)
Lifespan – about 8 years
Diet – omnivore
Conservation status – near threatened

Wood Thrushes are small passerine birds that are widely distributed across entire North America. They are also declared to be the official bird of the District of Columbia. These birds have cinnamon-brown upperparts and white underparts that are heavily streaked with brown spots over the chest.

 

The nest of Wood Thrushes

The nest of the Wood Thrushes is usually built by the females. Their nests closely resemble that of the Robins and are formed like an open cup made of grass mixed with mud, weeds, bark strips, and leaves. The inside of their nest has a soft lining, often made of rootlets.

 

Sooty Tern

Sooty Tern

Scientific name – Onychoprion fuscatus
Body length – 33-36 centimeters (13-14 inches)
Weight – 150-240 grams
Wingspan – 82-94 centimeters (32-37 inches)
Lifespan – about 32 years
Diet – carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Sooty Terns are large seabirds belonging to the family of gulls, skimmer, and terns. They have dark upperparts and contrasting white underparts with long wings and a deeply forked tail. Both their legs and bills are grey.

 

The nest of Sooty Terns

Sooty Terns are not very concerned about their privacy and, thus, do not invest much in building their nest. Their nests are shallow scrapes of soil usually built in the open, occasionally lined with a few leaves.

 

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Scientific name – Meleagris gallopavo
Body length – 76-125 centimeters (30-49 inches)
Weight – 2.5-11 kilograms
Wingspan – 1.25-1.44 meters (4.1-4.9 feet)
Lifespan – 3-5 years
Diet – omnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Out of all the ground-feeding birds belonging to the order of the Galliformes, the Wild Turkeys are the heaviest. These are sexually dimorphic birds, with the males being larger, heavier, and more colorful than their female counterparts. While the females have a lean, dull-brown body, the male turkeys have a dark plumage with a remarkably pink head and neck.

 

The nest of Wild Turkeys

The nests of Wild Turkeys are built either on the dead leaves at the base of trees or in open hayfields. You can find them nesting under thick shrubbery as well, but that is a rare occurrence.

 

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Scientific name – Sturnella neglecta
Body length – 16-26 centimeters (6.3-10.2 inches)
Weight – 89-115 grams
Wingspan – about 41 centimeters (16.1 inches)
Lifespan – about 10 years
Diet – omnivore
Conservation status – least concern

The Western Meadowlarks are medium-sized birds that belong to the family of New World Blackbirds. They have bright yellow underparts with a V-shaped patch on their breast. Their head, back, and wings are white with dark brown streaks all over them.

 

The nest of Western Meadowlarks

The Western Meadowlarks build their nests in areas that have a dense coverage of grass. These nests are usually located in small hollows or depression in the ground.

 

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Scientific name – Seiurus aurocapilla
Body length – 11-16 centimeters (4.3-6.3 inches)
Weight – 14-28 grams
Wingspan – 19-26 (7.5-10.2 inches)
Lifespan – 11 years
Diet – omnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Ovenbirds are medium-sized migratory songbirds that belong to the family of the New World Warblers. They spend their breeding season in the eastern regions of North America and migrate to Central America, Caribbean islandsOpens in a new tab., northern Venezuela, and Florida in the winters. These birds are olive-brown in color with pale but heavily streaked underparts.

 

The nest of Ovenbirds

The nest of the Ovenbirds is commonly referred to as “ovens”. They weave their nest using whatever vegetation they can find around them and provide it with a side entrance. When complete, it appears like a dome.

 

American Flamingo

American Flamingo

Scientific name – Phoenicopterus ruber
Body length – 120-145 centimeters (47-57 inches)
Weight – about 2.2-2.5 kilograms
Wingspan – about 5 feet
Lifespan – 40 years in wild; 60 years in captivity
Diet – omnivore
Conservation status – least concern

The American Flamingos are the only Flamingo species that inhabit the subcontinent of North America. Also known as the “Caribbean flamingos”, these birds are closely related to the Great and Chilean Flamingos. They have a large body with reddish-pink plumage. Their legs and bills are pink as well, with a bold black tip at the base.

 

The nest of American Flamingos

American Flamingos are conical-nesters that build volcano-shaped nests, often using stones and pebbles. The height of the mound usually reaches up to 18-20 inches and has a depression in the center which is big enough to hold the eggs safely.

 

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Scientific name – Antigone canadensis
Body length – 80-136 centimeters (2.7-4.6 feet)
Weight – 4-4.5 kilograms
Wingspan – about 200 centimeters (78.7 inches)
Lifespan – about 20 years
Diet – omnivore
Conservation status – least concern

Endemic to northeastern Siberia and North America, the Sandhill Cranes are one of the larger members of the crane family. They have a dull grey body with red foreheads, long neck, and a long, pointed bill.

 

The nest of Sandhill Cranes

The Sandhill Cranes are known for building both grounds as well as water nests. Both sexes build the nest together, using whatever they can find in their surroundings, including sedges, reeds, bulrush, cattails, marsh plants, and grasses.

 

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

Scientific name – Eremophila alpestris
Body length – 16-20 centimers (6.3-7.9 inches)
Weight – about 28-48 grams
Wingspan – 30-34 centimeters (11.8-13.4 inches)
Lifespan – about 1-5 years
Diet – omnivore
Conservation status – least concern

The Horned Larks are known as “Shore larks” in Europe. These medium-sized passerine birds can be found all over North America. They have a brownish-grey body with underparts that are paler than the upperparts. The “horn” in their name is not a permanent part of their body but only appears in the males during summer.

 

The nests of Horned Larks

The Horned Larks build a nest that appears like a woven basket using grass, small roots, shredded corn stalks, and other plant materials. For its lining, they use feathers, lint, fur, fine rootlets, and strings.

 

White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

Scientific name – Zonotrichia albicollis
Body length – 15-19 centimeters (5.9-7.5 inches)
Weight – about 22-32 grams
Wingspan – about 23 centimeters (9.1 inches)
Lifespan – up to 9.6 years
Diet – omnivore
Conservation status – least concern

The White-throated Sparrows are small passerine birds that belong to the family of the New World Sparrows. These sparrows are very much like the White-Crowned Sparrows in appearance. Only they have yellow lores and white throat markings.

 

The nest of White-throated Sparrow

The White-throated Sparrows build their nests on the ground. However, if their nest has been robbed by a predator, they build another one on the conifer trees.

 

Black-Headed Gull

Black-Headed Gull

Scientific name – Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Body length – 38-44 centimeters (15-17 inches)
Weight – about 190-400 grams
Wingspan – 94-105 centimeters (37-41 inches)
Lifespan – about 11-13 years
Diet – omnivore
Conservation status – least concern

The Black-headed Gulls are small members of the gull family that appear in North America in their migration season. Although they are named “black-headed”, their head is not permanently black but only turns black during the breeding season. Otherwise, their body is overall white with slightly grey wings and a black tail.

 

The nest of Black-headed Gulls

The Black-headed Gulls build their nest in close proximity to their fellow gulls. Their nests are nothing more than scrapes in the ground and occasionally have accumulated dead plant matter.

 

Broad-Billed Sandpiper

Broad-Billed Sandpiper

Scientific name – Calidris falcinellus
Body length – about 16 centimeters
Weight – 32-34 grams
Wingspan – about 34-37 centimeters
Lifespan – about 6.8 years
Diet – carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

The Broad-billed Sandpipers are small-sized migratory wading birds that belong to the family of sandpipers. These birds are similar in appearance to the Dunlin but are slightly smaller than the latter.

Their legs are shorter, with a longer, straighter bill. Their upperparts are grey and have heavy patterns on them, while their underparts are white with blackish markings.

 

The nest of Broad-billed Sandpiper

The Broad-billed Sandpipers nest in loose colonies of about 10 pairs. Their nests are shaped like a cup and are made of grass and lined with leaves. These nests are located on the top of wet sedges, tussocks, or moss cushions.

 

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan

Scientific name – Cygnus columbianus
Body length – 115-150 centimeters (45-59 inches)
Weight – about 3.4 to 9.6 kilograms
Wingspan – 168-211 centimeters (66-83 inches)
Lifespan – about 10 years
Diet – herbivore
Conservation status – least concern

The Tundra Swans are small-sized swans that inhabit shallow water bodies such as pools and lakes. Out of all the Holarctic swans, they are by far the smallest. They have a body that is white for the most part, except black eyes, bills, feet, and a salmon-colored line drawn around their mouthline.

 

The nest of Tundra Swans

The nests of the Tundra Swans are large, stick-like structures, and are lined with grass and mosses. These nests are usually located on an island, upland, or wet tundra meadow, where there is a large water body nearby.

 

Black-Necked Stilt

Black-Necked Stilt

Scientific name – Himantopus mexicanus
Body length – 35-39 centimeters (13-15 inches)
Weight – 150-176 grams
Wingspan – 71-75 centimeters (28-29 inches)
Lifespan – about 19 years
Diet – carnivore
Conservation status – least concern

The Black-necked Stilts are medium-sized shorebirds that heavily populate the shorelines and coastal areas of North America. They have a blackhead, bill, and plumage, with whitetail and underparts, and pink legs.

 

The nest of Black-necked Stilts

The Black-necked Stilts build their nests on surfaces that are above water, such as islands, floating mats of algae, and clumps of vegetation. They usually scrape away the soft sand of the surface to build a depression for their nest.

 

Common birds that nest on the ground (summing up)

We have found that are a large number of bird species that build their nest on the ground, including shorebirds, game birds, thrushes, warblers, sparrows, waterfowls, etc.

Moreover, each one of them builds a unique nest that can’t be confused with another bird. Once you get a hang of what each nest looks like, you will be able to recognize the nest of any of these birds easily.