Make a House a Home – Nest Building Season

Breeding season is always an exciting time of year, and it can also be a rollercoaster of emotions. There is great excitement when birds begin to pair up, sometimes followed by disappointment if they aren’t successful, or elation when everything falls into place, and they get to successfully rear chicks. It’s not only up to them though, here at the Horstmann trust there are lots of things we do to help and encourage the birds to breed successfully and although it’s still early in the season, we have been very busy already with vulture nest building.

A Eurasian black vulture holds a number of sticks in its beak

One of the most important things we can do is provide them with the right environment, and one of the biggest provisions for this is their nesting material. Did you know the nest of a Eurasian black vultures in the wild can be over 2m across and an incredible 3m deep? This of course is increased as the years go on when the pair will use the same nest each season, adding to it and freshening it up every time. The bearded vultures like to use sticks and then line their nests with wool too! So, if you were a fly on the wall on site during the winter and early spring, you would see us going back and forth with wheelbarrows full of sticks, delivering a nice variety of nesting options to those birds that need it. We also hand wash wool to remove the oils (in the wild the wool the bearded vultures would choose would have been left out in the elements – not kindly provided in a bag by a local farmer.) By providing a variety of different nesting materials, we learn which pieces the birds prefer and aim to give them the things they like best.  

The progress the birds make with their nest building, and the speed at which they seem to do it is often astonishing – as soon as we put sticks into the aviaries, they disappear in the beaks of the birds, off to their favourite ledge to be carefully woven into this beautiful form. Of course, the pressure is on to get the nest ready in time for egg laying – in the wild competition for nest sites is high so getting established as the pair in that location is crucial before the arduous work of laying and incubating can begin. Some birds are more particular about their nests than others, carefully choosing their materials for the perfect home, while other nests can look a little sparse. But either way, as long as the birds feel confident and there is a secure place for the egg to sit without risk rolling out of the nest, then the birds stand a chance of a successful season. Setting the birds up for success as best we can is the first loop of the roller coaster, with so many more twists and turns to come.  

An egg in a stick nest

There's a lot to know about the Horstmann Trust

We've been breeding vultures for over 40 years and have achieved a lot in that time - some of the first captive breeding of vultures happened here. We aim to continually improve and learn from what we do.

Core work at the Trust

From the practical to the theoretical we are always trying to improve how we manage and breed vultures and birds of prey.

At the core we are breeding birds to maintain our captive population but to also return birds to the wild to support the wild populations.

 

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You can help vultures through the work we do. There are many way that you can get involved – take a look at some of the options available to you.