Humans build many different kinds of shelters, ranging from tipi tents to massive skyscrapers. The same is true for birds: many bird species build nests to raise their young, but these nests vary substantially in size, shape, material etc. A bird’s choice of nest material is crucial for its building success. But how do birds tell if, for example, a certain twig works well for building? Some materials are easier to manipulate while others might be more supportive.
In my research I study the nest-building behaviour of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata); more specifically, of the males—because they build the nest! Male zebra finches build nests at any time during the year and with (pretty much) any kind of material (e.g., pieces of coloured paper or cotton string), which makes these orange-cheeked birds ideal for looking at how different kinds of experiences might influence nest building. To be able to control the different influences, I study zebra finches in the laboratory and analyse video recordings.